GREENSBORO, N.C. — Rev. Nelson Johnson says the dramatic video of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend brought back painful memories of 1979.
“Looking at a car plow through a group of people who were standing brought back deeply tragic memories of people getting out of their cars opening the trunk, smoking a cigarette and aiming into the crowd,” Johnson said.
That was the year a march against racism called “Death to the Klan” turned violent in Greensboro.
“It was death to racism, death to this kind of thinking,” Johnson said. “Death to these kinds of practices.”
It’s been nearly 38 years and Johnson still has the scar on his left arm from when he was attacked during the Greensboro massacre of 1979.
“I was wounded,” the pastor said. “I was stabbed by a Nazi.”
Members of the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi party showed up with guns and sticks, killing five members of the Worker Viewpoint Organization (later named Communist Workers’ Party) and hurting nearly a dozen others.
Johnson, 74, says the knife that went in his arm that day was meant to kill him.
“I probably would have died,” he said. “And it would have been as gruesome as any other death.”
He says the two tragedies show there’s still a lot of hate and suggests people come together to heal.
“Connect with other people, perhaps people different from you,” Johnson said. “Respect them, love them, build bonds of unity.”
It’s a dialogue he says is the only way to get to the root of the problem.
“How do we get at what gives fuel and life to this,” he asked.