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America at War

To Look Back, or Not to Look Back

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While the war in Iraq continues, there's renewed interest in revisiting how we got into it in the first place. Next week, the House Committee on Oversight and government reform will hold a new round of hearings about the intelligence that led up to the war. We get mixed signals about the past all the time--as citizens and as individuals. We're admonished that "those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it." But we're encouraged to "let go and leave the past behind." So which is it? That's what Weekend America's Krissy Clark wants to know.

Hear "16 Words"

Recapturing That Tragic Day-November 3, 1979, Testimony from Nelson Johnson

The morning of November 3 began as a cool foggy morning. I had breakfast with Singe and Jim Waller at their home. We reviewed together the general plans for the day. There was nothing particularly significant about the gathering. Little did I realize that that breakfast would be the last meal I would spend with Jim, one of the most dedicated and sincere men I have ever known.

By the time I arrived at Carver and Everett Streets, the beginning point of the march, around 10:00 AM, the sun had broken through the fog as a bright warm day was emerging. I was among the early arrivals. Shortly after I arrived the sound truck arrived. People started to attach the speakers on the flatbed truck.

The plan for the march was to have singing and music from the truck as the march weaved its way through the community. We called it "a living, breathing march." In addition to the several hundred people expected at the beginning, as the march flowed along with singing, drumming, chants and passing out leaflets explaining its purpose, we expected the march to double and maybe triple by the time we reached the end at Florida and Freemen Mill Road. We had organized a similar march in Raleigh a little more than a year earlier where over a thousand people marched to free Rev. Benjamin Chavis and the Wilmington 10.

Much of the discussion about why we chose to begin the march in the Morningside community is quite simple to explain. It was a community march with anticipated police escorts and security. We had long-standing experience of work in that community, and we worked alongside many of the residents in the textile mills. Flyers were circulated in the Morningside community and along the entire route; numerous residents were spoken to and invited to participate in the march and conference. That is an unequivocal fact. The questions raised by some about the starting point of the march being in a populated part of the community really arose out of a false post-facto distortion promoted by establishment apologists that this was not a march and conference at all but rather a staged and expected "shootout" with the Klan, from which the police were asked to stay away.

It is important to emphasize that the one group that we all can be sure knew in advance, with absolute certainty, of the plans of an armed attack by the Klan was the Greensboro Police. As I will show, not only did the police not inform the marchers or the community of the impending danger but they also failed to stop the armed Nazi/Klan caravan and did nothing to protect the marchers and the community from this murderous assault, a responsibility for which at least two police officers have been found liable for wrongful death and for which this city has neither officially acknowledged or apologized.

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