1979 – 5 protestors are killed in Greensboro, North Carolina

It is a sad feature of American history that two elements of it routinely succeed in drowning out the finer qualities and ideals for which that nation stands. These two elements are hubris and handguns.

The Greensboro Massacre is a case in point. The deaths of five civil rights marchers occurred in an 88 second long explosion of gunfire from counter-protestors – largely members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. But it’s never as simple as the good guys and the bad guys.

The two groups had clashed for months previous to the massacre, and both sides – imbued with the hubris that comes from knowing that when your cause is noble and true and just you don’t have to be – were to blame for the rising tensions. Furthermore, at least one witness claims that the first shots were fired by the civil rights marchers – and members of the KKK and the Nazis claimed at their trials that an undercover BATF agent had encouraged them to take their guns along to the rally.

Whoever is to blame – and it seems there’s plenty for all in this mess – the shootings were a senseless tragedy. Captured on film by news crews, their broadcast around the world showed that for all the civil rights advances of the Sixties, there was still a lot of work to be done before the goal was reached.

Referenced in:

88 Seconds… & Still Counting — Pop Will Eat Itself
88 Seconds (I Wanna Go To The Rodeo) — The Othermothers
88 Seconds in Greensboro — Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark