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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Alexander M. Rivera, November 30, 2001. Interview C-0297. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Racial violence and atmosphere of fear and intimidation

Rivera offers another example of how racial violence fostered an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. In this case, he describes his coverage of the Isaiah Nixon lynching in Georgia and how he was run out of town for his efforts to photograph and interview Nixon's family.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Alexander M. Rivera, November 30, 2001. Interview C-0297. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

The next one was a lynching in Georgia. Isaiah lynching.
Another lynching.
Then we went down to investigate that one. That was the one that I was sure that my luck had run out. Something happened that had never happened before in my whole life. Something told me, I don't know what the something was to go dressed as a chauffeur. It was easier traveling as a chauffeur because everybody figured that you worked with somebody important. They didn't want to have any problems. So I got to thinking. I've got a chauffeur's cap. I kept it because it saved my life. I'm sure it saved my life. I had a little black bow tie on and a chauffeur's cap. I went down to this place and I couldn't find him. Couldn't find where he lived because he lived in the country. He didn't live in a little town. So I saw a guy sweeping, sweeping off his front there so I asked him, I said, 'Let me ask you something.' He was nervous. I said, I asked him, I said, 'Did you know Isaiah Nixon?' He starts sweeping real fast. He said, 'Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I knew him. Yeah.' I said, 'You know where he lives?' He said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'But you can't get there in that car, in your car. Your car won't go up there.' I said, 'What you mean?' I had a Roadmaster vehicle. 'What do you mean this car won't go up there?' He said, 'It's just a little trail.' He said, 'You won't go up.' I said, 'Will your car go up there?' He said, 'Yeah.' I said, 'Will you take me up there?' He said, 'No.' I said, 'Is it worth five dollars for you to take me up there?' He thought a while, 'Yeah.' I had my camera stuff in my bag, travel bag and I had. We went up. I photographed the family and the kids and talked to, interviewed the wife and we left. (We got a ways) and I was going back to my car no incident at all. But in leaving we had to go circuitous in this turpentine district. So coming out we made a turn in this turpentine district and came face to face with a carload. I says, I was out of breath. I said, 'Who are they?' 'I don't know, but one of them's the sheriff.' I said, 'One of them is the sheriff.' That didn't mean anything. So I said well, they just kept on and I said, 'Well this might be it.' So they told us to back up. Go on and back up to. Well, I hadn't anticipated a problem. So I had, we didn't have any escape plan or anything. I didn't know what they would pick on us. When we got up to the house, stay in the car. They were going - he asked, they asked him who was I. They told, he told them that I was a relative of Nixon that came to see about the funeral, burial. I hadn't been over there with her. So then they went in and I don't know what she was going to say or anything. Then the only thing she would say truthfully was that I was a reporter from the Pittsburgh Courier. Well they came out and said you can go. I still don't know whether it means that I, we can go until we get back down in those turpentine district with the trees and what not. We went all the way out to where my car was. Well I got to the car and I said, 'Atlanta's closer. It's the closest big town. That's what I wanted to get to.' Atlanta was the closest big town. I'd have to go all the way through Georgia, South Carolina, until I got to North Carolina.