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Oral History Interview with Jim Price by Scott Ellsworth


Date: May 25, 1977

Interviewee: Jim Price

Biographical abstract: Jim Price was a counselor for the American Friends Service Committee and minister at Congregational United Church of Christ in Greensboro, North Carolina, in the 1960s.

Interviewer: Scott Ellsworth

Description:

This transcript of a May 25, 1977, oral history interview conducted by Scott Ellsworth with Jim Price primarily documents Price’s involvement in community activism and anti-Vietnam War protests in Greensboro, North Carolina, during the 1960s. Price recalls a Ku Klux Klan rally in Greensboro where community members taunted the Klansmen, running a newspaper article about it which upset the KKK, and an intimidating visit with Klansmen Eddie Dawson and George Dorsett to get their side of the story. He describes Klansmen monitoring Tate Street to make sure black men didn’t associate with Woman’s College students and the types of people that frequented some Tate Street establishments in the early sixties.

Price also discusses Hal Sieber, rumors forcing him to leave the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, and chamber-sponsored community sensitivity sessions; forming an activist ministry in Greensboro; unsuccessfully reaching out to the black activist community; visiting Malcolm X University; uniting with Nelson Johnson against the death penalty; organizing a protest that became violent and an ineffective anti-Nixon demonstration; the end of the counterculture movement; protesting the joint ownership of the media outlets in Greensboro; and the importance of the media in community activism.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: William Henry Chafe Oral History Collection

Repository: Duke University

Item#: 4.23.670

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Civil Rights Greensboro and the appropriate repository.



Oral History Interview with Jim Price by Scott Ellsworth

[Unknown woman present during interview, likely Mrs. Price]

[Conversation about beverages redacted]

Jim Price:

I guess it was about four years ago and like we published a small newspaper called the Greensboro Sun.

Scott Ellsworth:

Right, alternative.

JP:

Yeah. And the Klan had one or two rallies downtown, and at one of these rallies one of our reporters went out and covered their meeting or their rally. And—

SE:

Was this like in the open or at a coliseum or something?

JP:

No, this is downtown on the streets.

SE:

Just block off some streets and speakers and—

JP:

Yeah.

Unknown:

Was it at the governmental center?

JP:

Sort of in that area. It was open places downtown.

SE:

Right.

JP:

There was probably five or six Klansmen. I'm not sure the exact number, but a tremendous number of—well, I wouldn't say tremendous number, but quite a few young, freaky-type people showed up and a number of blacks from [North Carolina] A&T [State University]. And during the speeches the Klan was giving, there was dancing in the street, and blacks and whites dancing together, pretty much making fun of the speakers.

SE:

About how many Klansmen do you think were there?

JP:

Six or seven. [To unknown:] Were you down there?

SE:

Just six or seven for a rally?

JP:

Yeah, nobody showed up.

Unknown:

Nobody showed up.

JP:

It was mostly their people. Now, one of the guys—before I forget his name—was George Dorsett, and—

SE:

He was there?

JP:

I'm pretty sure he was there and his bodyguard. Geez, I pointed him out to you a couple of times. Well, the name will come to me. But anyway, so our reporter did a story called Klu Klux Klan or something and it appeared in the front page of our publication. It wasn't a very objective piece. It was pretty much making fun of the Klan.

SE:

Sure.

JP:

So about two or three weeks later, I got a call at my office. My office was down in Tate Street. It was the community organizing office. And one of our interns was a student from A&T who was doing her fieldwork with us. And there was a call from the Klan and—Ed Dawson, that's the bodyguard.

SE:

Ed Dawson?

JP:

Ed Dawson.

SE:

All right.

JP:

He's still here in town. I've seen him around. He's sort of—I forget the title they give to him, but he's their guard, their—whatever.

SE:

Right, okay.

Unknown:

He's the one who wore the little uniform?

JP:

Yeah.

Unknown:

Oh, him.

JP:

He called—

SE:

The what?

Unknown:

He wore a little khaki uniform.

SE:

Oh, okay.

JP:

He called and said that he was very upset about the article that appeared in our paper and he was coming up to my office. So I said, “Well, fine, come on up and we'll talk about it.” Well, the interns and the volunteers we had working at the office at that time were really scared, especially the black woman. She said, “I'm getting out of here,” and she left. So Ed Dawson came up and—a little slight man. He was wearing like a white work clothes or something and wasn't at all intimidating, and just expressed that he was very concerned about that article and indicated that they might do something. He didn't say what—

SE:

How did he express that?

JP:

Just said that they were concerned about the article and they wanted the truth printed. And it wasn't any overt threat. It was just—perhaps it was my own imagination, that “Well, he's saying he's going to get us.” Well, at that time we were in enough controversy in the community over pushing police review boards and, you know, the [Vietnam] War was still on. We'd had a lot of controversy, and I thought, “Well, the last thing we need right now is the Klan harassing us.” So I agreed to meet with them. And one of the people that was working with us, named Ben Madkins[?]—he's a realtor here in town—and I sat up a meeting at Ed Dawson's trailer which was out on High Point Road.

SE:

Now, is this his home?

JP:

It was his home.

SE:

Okay.

JP:

Yeah, I'm pretty sure it was Ed Dawson's home and not—whatever his name is.

SE:

Right, Dorsett.

JP:

Not Dorsett's, I'm pretty sure it was Dawson's.

SE:

The trailer was out towards Jamestown or—

JP:

Well, it was—

SE:

—in town?

JP:

Midway. I believe it was still in the city limits. It was called Bob's Trailer Park or something. And so we went out. Ben and I went out to the trailer, and we very carefully parked the car to make sure we could get away. We were very intimidated.

SE:

Sure.

JP:

We—I made a tape recording. I took the tape recorder, and Dorsett and Dawson were there in the trailer, and I asked if they would permit me to tape record the conversation. The intention of going out there was we wanted to get their side of what the Klan was about.

SE:

Right.

JP:

And I promised them that it would be a very objective story, and that I— in fact, I apologized for the other story, because one thing we tried to do at the paper was have objective stories, and the first one was not. So I turned on the tape recorder and I said, “Okay, whatever you want to say. We would like to let our readers know what the Klan is about, what they are doing, and stuff like that.” When we first went in, the only real intimidation I had was that there was a number of weapons on the wall—knives and swords and a couple of guns.

SE:

Pistols, rifles?

JP:

Pistols and a couple of rifles. And the scary thing was at that time I had a brochure for a program, you know, advertising community organizing that had a fairly good size photograph of me on it, and that was—

SE:

Eight by twelve, something like that?

JP:

Say, four by six. That was stuck on the wall with one of the guns pointed at my head. So that kind of made us feel a little funny. They never mentioned the photograph—

SE:

Of course.

SE:

—but it was there for me to see. And we talked a good bit about the history of the Klan, how they got involved in it. Dorsett, I believe, was sort of like their chaplain or something, and Dawson—Dawson did most of the talking. Dorsett was very skeptical of the tape recorder. I understand now he's had some—there's been some investigations of his dealings with the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigations] and stuff. They talked a good bit about splits within the Klan. Apparently they were in one group and then they'd broken off and started their own.

SE:

Right, North Carolina Knights and U.S. Knights.

JP:

And—is this helpful at all?

SE:

Yeah, this is very helpful. I like your detail; keep it like that. This is great.

JP:

They were very sociable. They served drinks. I think we had a choice of beer or rum or gin or something. Dorsett wouldn't drink and refused to let us take a photograph of him drinking. We couldn't take a photograph of either one of them drinking. And we—so they gave us beers and we started drinking and had a really good talk, mostly about the background. Also about an incident that happened—and I'm not sure of the exact location; I'll try to find the article and get you a copy—somewhere in North Carolina, I believe, there was a shootout or something, and Dawson, I believe, was convicted or charged with shooting either at police officers or a group of blacks.

SE:

Now, do you know the year of this—fifties, sixties?

JP:

I believe it was late fifties or early sixties. He acted like it happened maybe seven, eight years, ten years before. But apparently, he was still on some type of parole for that, because at some point in the conversation we got to talking about the weapons and whether they really were as threatening as they indicated, because they were talking a good bit about Tate Street. Apparently Tate Street, near UNCG [The University of North Carolina at Greensboro], was a place the Klan went quite often in the late fifties and early sixties. And they were apparently there to protect the morals and safety of the women at UNCG. And if they went down and saw blacks on Tate Street, particularly at a place called the Red Door—

SE:

Which was a bar or a drive-in or?

JP:

Kind of a little restaurant. I don't know if they served beer at that time or not. But Emmylou Harris started her career there.

SE:

The Red Door, yeah. Okay.

JP:

Now it's a little pizza place right there near [unclear].

SE:

Now, this is really good.

JP:

Apparently they would go and park their cars on the street and watch. Anytime they saw blacks, they would confront them, especially if they saw black men with white women, which at that time they say was fairly frequent. And they would confront the blacks and the white woman and then—

SE:

Now, this was during the sixties, or do you have any sense of when that was?

JP:

I really think it was—

SE:

Earlier?

JP:

I'd say around '60, because UNCG went coed, I guess, in '63 or so. They acted like it was mostly—it was all women. It must have been about '60. And they would confront the people on Tate Street. And apparently they—I think they mentioned that they had loud speakers and at some times voiced their concerns. And usually they just sort of patrolled the area and confront people personally when they saw something like this. And there were some problems at a place called the Apple House[?]. It's no longer there, but it was run by the Apple brothers here in town. The Apple House apparently was a place the Klan hung out on Tate Street.

SE:

Again, a restaurant or—?

JP:

Yeah, kind of—there are Apple Houses, I believe, still operating in Greensboro. Now they're like family restaurants, but at that time the one on Tate Street was where all of the paratroopers and the Fort Bragg crowd would come. It was a pretty rough crowd for years.

SE:

It was a kind of blue collar, blue plate special?

JP:

Yeah.

SE:

Did they serve beer, do you know?

JP:

Yeah, they served beer, at least when I went there. When I went there it was a hangout for bikers, but that was a sort of a continuation of the whole atmosphere of—yeah, you know. But the Klan was very active there. And the Apple brothers—I'm not sure of their names—but on Tate Street—if you wanted to get the history of some of this—Mr. Little[?], who runs a Bi-Rite on Tate Street, also a Mr. Street, who ran the [Cinema] Theatre on Tate Street for years. Now it's been bought out by somebody else. I'll find out from Danielle his first name, but he's been there for years and years. He's a real nice guy and will talk. Little is a little—

Unknown:

Eugene.

JP:

Eugene Street.

SE:

Okay.

JP:

And he ran the theatre here in town for years, and he would know a good bit about that area. And also a woman named Mrs. Pearman[?].

SE:

How is her name spelled?

JP:

P-e-a-r-m-a-n. It's Annie—A-n-n-i-e—Annie Pearman. She runs the—don't mention my name in connection with her; she'll drive you crazy.

Unknown:

He might not want to talk to her. Mr. Hart.

JP:

Yeah, Mr.—Okay, Annie Pearman runs the college shop. It's a little place that has knitting and sewing supplies.

SE:

Near UNCG.

JP:

Yeah, it's right in that little shopping center—also Mr. Hart that runs Hart Appliances. So anyway, these are some of the business people who might know some of the details of this.

Okay. So they talked about the confrontations they had down there. They were very concerned about the women. In fact, I believe one of the tense points in our interview was one of us made a—Ben or I made a comment about what seemed be a sexual problem that the Klan—these two guys had. It seemed to be like, “Well, these are our white women, and these blacks are touching our women.” We mentioned the sexual thing and it got a little strained right there, and they—I thought they were going to break off the interview. They didn't want to talk about that.

When it came to the guns, the reason I remember Dawson having some kind of conviction, or one of them having convictions, is they had what they say was a submachine gun. I don't know the model or anything. It was up on the wall, and one of them got it down and started showing it to us, which really intimidated us quite a bit. So I asked, “Well, how are you permitted to have this gun if you're on probation or parole?” And he said, “Well, it's against the law. I'm not supposed to have it, but we have it.” Well, then I got into a conversation about whether they really were as mean—ass as they were acting like they were, or whether all this was for show.

SE:

Right.

JP:

And they insisted that they were tough, that they would back up their words, which I had no doubts about it. Well, Ben was with me. Ben sort of gets off on things and he kept going on about, “You guys, you're just a bunch of hot air. You're just shooting off you mouth. You've never done anything. You've never really carried out a threat.” And Ben—I don't know whether it was the beer or what it was, but he was intent on seeing if they would attack us, and he pushed it pretty close. They never threatened to throw us out of the trailer or never really did anything that would indicate that they were going to attack us. But I was trying to get it back to a level where we could have conversation. Finally that passed. And the most of the evening was very relaxed. They were—they wouldn't tell us too much about the inner workings of the Klan. They wouldn't tell us too much about any actual violence that they had done.

[Redacted conversation between Jim Price, his neighbor, and girlfriend]

SE:

You were at the point of your friend was pushing them to see if they would be violent against you and nothing happened.

JP:

Yeah. Well, they—I really thought they were pretty admirable for not—for continuing the interview. They refused to get antagonistic. And I don't know whether this was a sign that they really were—

SE:

Right.

JP:

—sort of bluffing.

SE:

Were you long-haired at that time?

JP:

Oh, yeah, much longer than now. Now, when the story came out, they—Dawson called me and said he appreciated the story. It was just from—it was just transcripts from the conversation. We did single out things they talked about, the guns and stuff, and I think I agreed not to mention that we were drinking alcohol—or that they were drinking alcohol. And I think I agreed not to mention anything that would get them into trouble legally, you know, like about the gun, who owned the guns. I didn't say any of this convicted felon—I don't know if he's a felon or not. But I've seen Dorsett a couple of times since and talked to him for a couple of minutes, just very briefly.

SE:

In the past—isn't he dead now?

JP:

Oh, not Dorsett, not Dorsett. I'm sorry.

SE:

Dawson?

JP:

Dawson, just in passing like in bars or something.

[Redacted conversation about SE leaving car lights on]

JP:

Now, Dawson, I'm pretty sure, is still here in town, because I've seen him as recently as six months ago. In fact, there was a story—I believe they had a Klan meeting in Alamance County, I believe, a few months ago. And he was there in his capacity as guard.

SE:

Or whatever, yeah.

JP:

So he's still around, and I've found him to be a pretty open and honest guy.

SE:

And approachable.

JP:

Yeah.

SE:

Okay.

JP:

I thought he was. I mean he was—he didn't seem to be giving me any line. He seemed to be willing to answer questions even if he knew it was kind of risk to his own—

SE:

Sure.

JP:

Dorsett was a different story. Now, I'm a minister and he was a minister, and we talked about that briefly. He was very suspicious and very secretive, and I don't know whether that was because maybe he was playing a dual role.

SE:

Right.

JP:

Because I do understand he was an informant for the FBI in the Klan.

SE:

Oh, that Dorsett was?

JP:

Dorsett was, yeah.

SE:

That's very interesting.

JP:

There was a good bit of publicity on that. Now, he's got a son who was at [University of North Carolina at] Chapel Hill and there was some controversy over his son. I don't recall what it was. His son, I believe, was just the opposite. He was very radical, and I think there was something radical—some radical action took place in Chapel Hill and his son was part of it, or something weird happened. But Dorsett was a very flamboyant guy. I don't whether he's alive or dead.

SE:

I think he's passed away. [sic—died 10 February 2008] That's what I've heard, and I haven't been able to locate him any place.

JP:

He wore a—I remember he wore a pinkie ring with a big diamond in it. He drove fancy cars, and I heard he was—all this is—

SE:

Sure, sure.

JP:

He was quite a womanizer and stuff. He was a very flashy guy. We didn't talk too much. I think he was suspicious of me because I was a minister and wondering what a minister was doing looking like me. And I was also suspicious about his thing. Okay, now that's about the extent of my dealings with—

SE:

Dawson, do you know what he does for a living, or have you seen him like in working-class bars or just—

JP:

He looks like a painter.

Unknown:

I remember seeing him at Stamey's, don't we?

SE:

Is that a pub?

Unknown:

It's a barbeque place.

JP:

I'm pretty sure he's in town. You're doing it just for North Carolina, right?

SE:

Yeah, right. But I'm interested in it all. Do you know other stuff? Why did you ask, I'm curious.

JP:

Oh, just—I was minister of a black church for a couple years in Tallahassee and had some dealings.

SE:

What years was that?

JP:

[Nineteen] sixty-five to sixty-seven. And then I was at the First Christian Church in Lumberton, North Carolina.

SE:

What county is that?

JP:

Gee, that's right—right around Fayetteville. Pembroke—is it Pembroke community?

SE:

Right, okay.

JP:

I had this very slight—not as much contact.

SE:

Again, what were the years on that? Do you know?

JP:

That was '68-'69. Okay, Ed Dawson—I'm sure this is the same one.

[Dawson's address and phone number redacted]

JP:

Now, let me check. There was an article the other day that—

[interruption by unidentified woman; Price looks for clippings]

JP:

That's Dawson right there. You can have this.

SE:

Oh, this will be great.

JP:

But this was in Alamance County. David [Luton?] might be able to give you some information. But that's—it mentions Dawson.

SE:

Yeah, Ed Dawson, fifty-nine-year-old home repair man.

JP:

Oh, home repairman.

SE:

That's the—these uniforms are much different than I'm used to seeing.

JP:

They are more of what I would think of as a Nazi—

SE:

Yeah.

JP:

—thing rather than, you know the—especially Dawson. The times I've seen him, he looked like militant—oh, yeah. There was an article in the [Greensboro] Daily News in the last day or two about the Klan and the Neo-Nazi party, did you see that?

SE:

No.

JP:

Does that apply to what—

SE:

Yeah, I mean any info I can—

[Conversation about running an errand redacted; recording paused]

JP:

Now, there's Dorsett. Let's see—I'm sorry, that's Dawson.

SE:

Okay.

JP:

Dawson. It goes on on this page here. If I give you a little bit—what I can do is, if you can just mail these back, because it's the only copy we have left.

SE:

Or I can—yeah, for sure. Or if you like, I can try at—why don't I look at Chapel Hill first and see if they've got—

JP:

Well, no—if you can just mail them back to me.

SE:

I'd be happy to, but I can see you not wanting them to leave the house.

Unknown:

No, no. I don't think they're in Chapel Hill.

JP:

These early ones I don't think are. This is the issue we had one hell of a fight over. We were going to the press and forgot that there wasn't a little caption under the photograph, and somebody got a pen and wrote it in there like that, which I about went berserk over.

SE:

For sure.

JP:

Now, this interview—this is—

SE:

That is Dawson and that is Dorsett?

JP:

Yeah, this is Dawson and this is Dorsett. Up here on the wall—this is a mobile home—up here on the wall you can see the beginning—

SE:

Oh, the bottoms of guns.

JP:

The guns, yeah.

Unknown:

[I wonder if?] we still had those photographs. We might.

[conversation about Price's pets redacted]

SE:

Okay, yeah, I'll definitely do that. I'll just Xerox them and send them back. Or if there's a Xerox nearby, I can just do that.

Now, this—again, this—who was the name, Ben Seaborg?

JP:

No, Hal Sieber.

SE:

Hal Sieber. S-e-a?

JP:

S-i-e-b-e-r.

SE:

Okay.

JP:

Hal Sieber. He—in fact, if you called the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, they could give you his current address.

[Comments about pets redacted]

SE:

But he was a chamber of commerce member who was—how would you describe him again?

JP:

Well, at that time, the chamber—Greensboro has been one of the leaders in civil rights and trying to deal with racial problems, especially after the A&T disturbance they had. And the chamber, with Hal's leadership, started a program to cool racial conflict in the community.

SE:

This would be like after [Dr. Martin Luther] King's death?

JP:

[phone rings] Well, it started even before that.

SE:

Okay. What do you mean by the A&T trouble, '68 or before?

JP:

Is that when the troops were on campus, '68?

SE:

Well—

JP:

Yeah.

SE:

Maybe. Okay.

JP:

Yeah, that's it when they had all the trouble, '68 [sic—1969]. I think he—Sieber was probably in Greensboro throughout most of the sixties. And I'm not sure of his exact title, but he had a tremendous number of—

[Discussion of phone caller redacted]

JP:

Like Hal started a series of, like, sensitivity groups between blacks and whites, and like blacks in the police department. I went to—I helped him with a bunch of them. And it was things like white policemen feeling black [unclear], touching black hair and, you know. Those went on for quite a long time. There is a guy here in town whose name is Bartlett[?]. He stills lives here in town. He was with OEO [Office of Economic Opportunity] for a while.

SE:

Okay.

JP:

And he demolishes houses; he has a wrecking company. He was very active in civil rights stuff and married a white woman. Now, I don't know whether he had any repercussions because of that or not. He keeps pretty isolated. They are still married, but he does live here in town. It's Amos Bartlett.

SE:

Okay.

JP:

And he has Bartlett Construction Company.

SE:

Now, who was upset with Sieber?

JP:

Well, I'm sure the intention of the chamber in starting these—this effort to improve relations was for business. If you're going to burn down the town, it's going to be bad for business. So they wanted to smooth things out, but Seiber took a very aggressive role. And, in fact, like, he was very concerned because there were certain barber shops here in town who would not cut black hair. This is even until three or four years ago.

SE:

Right, okay.

JP:

And there were certain funeral homes that wouldn't serve blacks, and there were country clubs. In fact, he belonged to a country club that would not serve blacks. And in fact, just before he left, not too long before that he asked me to get a couple of blacks together and go with him to eat at the country club one night to integrate it. And we never did it, because he was getting pretty aggressive, and he wasn't quiet about what he wanted to do here in town. That's when the rumors started that he was being bad and then the thing about the black women—

SE:

Seeing black women.

JP:

Yeah. And that's when the chamber got rid of him. You know how things like this work; they can't hit you on the issues, they're going to try to get you on scandalous—

SE:

Oh, sure.

JP:

It's really sad because he had a heart attack right after that and really almost died. His wife left him, and he moved to Dallas. If you call the chamber, I'm sure they would have—

SE:

But he's in Dallas now?

JP:

He's in Dallas, the last I've heard. I'm trying to think of any— [stirring]

SE:

This has been very good. Do you have—one problem we've been having is trying to get a sense of white working class reaction to like the sit-in movement at Woolworth's, the school integration, the '68 troubles, and stuff like that. Do you know any people who might—any ministers or predominately working-class white churches or any sort of leadership? I know some of the labor people in town, but again, that isn't that strong.

JP:

Now there was an area in town that had a lot of trouble. It was a white neighborhood that started going black, and I can't recall the name of the community.

SE:

Right.

Unknown:

[unclear]

JP:

Remember where we went to the party where the guy had the turkey?

Unknown:

Oh, yeah.

JP:

And someone stole his turkey.

Unknown:

That was on Textile Road—Textile Drive. Where Brad used to work? [unclear] Mill community.

JP:

Yeah.

Unknown:

That's an old community.

JP:

There is a minister here in town who was—in fact, I served with him as an associate minister, an assistant minister at the church. His name is Emmett Floyd and he's with Congregational United Church of Christ.

SE:

Okay.

JP:

He was very active in civil rights in Atlanta, and when he came here, I know—it was before I came here—but there was a—remember one of the—what was the train that had? Was it the Freedom Train—not Freedom Train—Poor People's March?

SE:

Right, yeah.

JP:

When was that, '67?

SE:

I think it might have been a little earlier but—

JP:

When it came through here, Emmett Floyd and the Congregation of the United Church of Christ were sort of leaders in providing food and housing.

SE:

Was he black or white?

JP:

He's white.

SE:

And he had a white congregation?

JP:

Yeah, and I served at that congregation for about a year.

SE:

Now, Textile Drive. Can you think of any cross street where this mill village was, or I can just find it.

Unknown:

The only church I can think of in that area is Buffalo Creek Presbyterian, and I don't think that's what we're talking about.

SE:

No.

JP:

The name is—I almost got it with me. Its—anyway, the reason I mentioned him is—it's Windermere, Windermere Park, I believe.

SE:

Windermere.

JP:

Windermere. I don't know how you spell it.

SE:

I can find that out.

JP:

I believe the neighborhood was Windermere Park. And the reason I mentioned Emmett Floyd is that he told me about it, and I don't know how involved he was there, but he might know some ministers in that area that went through that transition.

SE:

Right, okay. That would be good.

JP:

I don't know if there was any bloodshed or anything, but it was really a pretty intense thing. And I'm sure the Klan probably—it was a perfect setup for them.

SE:

Sure, sure.

JP:

A lot of the ministers are new here in town, and I don't know any that have that kind of information. You're familiar with Carolina Action, right?

SE:

Yeah.

JP:

Now, they've got an office here in town, and they deal a lot with low income people. And if you call them, they might know the ministers.

SE:

What was the name of the group you were with when you did the Klan story in the Sun?

JP:

It was called the Greensboro Ministry for Social Change. And that started in '71.

SE:

Can you describe the group? Was it black and white ministers or mainly white or—

JP:

Mostly white. The way it got started is Tate Street was sort of where all the street people, all the hippies, and everybody congregated. And I was serving at this Emmett Floyd's church, and some of the kids were going down that area. And I got involved that way and realized that—started spending a lot of time there. That was when I was still going to Duke [University], school at Duke. And got very involved with the people there, left the church, and went to work for American Friends Service Committee for two years doing military counseling. I don't know if you ever knew Bill Jeffries. Because of my work with people on Tate Street, some ministers in town said they would help me raise money to set up a program. At that time the big thing was, you know, that all these freaks are out to overthrow the world. But I made it clear that we—it would be a ministry. It would be, really what it was was ministers who were concerned about the war, concerned about racism, concerned about a lot of community issues, who could not speak to these issues to their church or they'd get fired. They would raise money or give me money or find wealthy people in the church who were liberal; they'd give me money. And it was a community organizing program. We did marriages and counseling and all of this, but basically it was not any kind of evangelical thing.

SE:

Were you affiliated with any national church group?

JP:

Yeah, I'm with United Church of Christ. At that time the war was the major issue in the churches, and my church did not sanction me or condemn me, they just sort of, you know. They weren't too sure because most of the work was anti-war stuff. That was one reason I left the church, the Congregation Church, is a lot of flack over, you know, being in marches and organizing.

But it was a—we had some blacks, one named Psyche[?] who was just—would really—at that time, you know, the thing was to make a spectacle of yourself as much as possible, and he did a really good job. He'd shave his head and just have a big top-knot sticking out, and he had an act he would do around town in bars and even when I would take them to churches and stuff, he'd set himself on fire. He'd called it the “flaming nigger trick.” He had this mixture of lighter fluid and stuff and he'd put it all over him and put a match and just dance around in flames and stuff.

SE:

Too much. What was his name?

JP:

His name was Psyche.

Unknown:

They've been doing articles.

JP:

They had a story on him recently. He's got his hair done a different way.

Unknown:

They did an article on his hair.

JP:

But Psyche was one of the regulars in the program. There was a—we started what was called “experiment communication.” I guess it ran from like '72 to '74. What that was a series of projects to open up communication in Greensboro. We challenged the police department to softball and stuff. We had big games like that. We went to a lot of churches and we would have meetings with like church people and all these freaky people. Psyche was—he loved that, and he was always in that. And people would come down to Tate Street and visit with us. And we started the—

Unknown:

Psyche would entertain.

JP:

And The Sun was part of that. And then we started a TV station, community access television, and all of that was to increase communications in town. But Psyche was probably—except for Carol Evans[?]—

Unknown:

Oh, my god. Let's not talk about Carol Evans.

JP:

But there was very few blacks involved, that for years—

Unknown:

Well, when we were doing the TV thing, there were.

JP:

Yeah. But during the years of like the Vietnam War, when we were doing most of the really heavy organizing, it was very difficult to get blacks involved. About two years ago—in fact, I can give you the exact date. The first time we really got involved with the black community in any kind of organizing efforts was—

Unknown:

Death penalty bill, right? Was that the death penalty?

JP:

Yeah. A guy named Nelson Johnson here in town, who was sort of one of the big black leaders, he-we got together on the death penalty issue. This was in April of '74. And we set up a committee; it was ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] and a couple of white ministers, and me and Nelson, and a bunch of—But it was—for the first time we got together in an issue, and we had a demonstration downtown. But that was the first time that we'd been able to work together. Before then, blacks—the attitudes that were expressed to me, “Okay, that's your war. You worry about it,” and a feeling that the counterculture, whatever it was, was sort of middle-class white kids who were just smoking dope and just messing around and not really dealing with the issues.

SE:

Were they? I mean would you describe them as that in town?

[End of Tape 1, Side A—Begin Tape 1, Side B]

SE:

—Black Power movement and that kept—that tended to sever lines of communication between white groups and black groups during the late sixties or—? Why was it not until '74?

JP:

Well, Greensboro, I think, has been a very divided town, racially, you know. Elm Street—you know, you had the black on that side and the white on this side. And there's—the black community, as far as organizing, would have been much stronger than the white community. And they were much more radical, much more militant than the white community. And I think they saw white students—which most of our movement was here in town, that I directed, was white, middle-class students—college students who were discovering drugs. In a way it was, while there was a lot of sincerity, there was also a lot of people who it was the cool thing to do.

SE:

Sure, okay.

JP:

And I think the blacks picked that up real fast. That while there were, you know—while you could—while I could turn out two thousand people for a demonstration—and I think they admired that, and they admired some of the ministers who were involved in that—they also were very skeptical of the thousands who turned out to march and to carry signs, getting like it was more recreation than it was any sincere thing. I think they saw that real fast. The couple—let's see, the first couple times I went over to—what was the name of that place? It wasn't the Malcolm X University, or was it? Yeah, it was. It moved—no, it was—didn't the Malcolm X University move to Greensboro—

SE:

Yeah.

JP:

—for a while?

Unknown:

Yeah, it did, because Marco was with it.

JP:

So we went over there a couple of times before this and—

SE:

This is “we” being the—

JP:

The ministry.

SE:

Okay.

JP:

For a couple of years, the ministry was the organizing place in town. And we would go there; it was like—I mean, it would take fifteen to twenty minutes to get in the door. There would be faces in the windows. It'd be—when you came in, you were escorted in. It was like—we would go and say, “Okay, can we work on this? We were planning a demonstration. Can you send support?”

SE:

Like against the war or something like that?

JP:

Like against the war.

SE:

Okay. About what year you think this was, '71, '70?

JP:

[Nineteen] seventy-one, seventy-two.

SE:

Okay, go on. This is good.

JP:

A lot of times they'd say, “Yes,” and no support at all. Most of these were anti-war demonstrations. And we didn't go there to lay our rap on about how this is a—what kind of war this is and how you should be involved. But we tried to make it clear that we needed their support, we needed it to be a black/white force in this town, but we got very little support. And I guess we went over there maybe twice. There was an organization that Nelson Johnson—now, Nelson is still here in town. That's the guy at the center there.

SE:

Okay.

JP:

He's quiet, but he's still very active. He had—they published—I think they still publish the newspaper called the African World, and it was part of a thing called SOBU, Student—Black Unity—Student Organization for Black Unity or something like that.

SE:

Okay. Student Alliance for Black Unity [sic], maybe?

JP:

Something like that. And I'm not sure if it's still going or not. But it was sort of a national thing directed out of here in town. And Nelson was the one we talked to a good bit and always very cool.

SE:

Now, was he involved in Malcolm X U or not? He was another—

JP:

I'm not sure whether he was or not.

SE:

Okay.

JP:

I remember the other time we went and talked to them. I was trying to get a police community—what would you call it—police review board started. And we had a thing called “A Day in the Park” in the little park down here. When was that, '71? I guess '71.

Unknown:

It must have been.

JP:

And the vice squad came in and starting roughing people up and it broke out into a small scale riot. And a lot of our people were hurt. And we had a lot of photographers there that day. There were hundreds of people. And they tear-gassed people, they beat people; several of our people were arrested. There was a group—well, there was a paper at one time called The Plain Dealer here in the state. A lot of them were in Pittsboro and Chapel Hill. Some of them were up here and they got arrested. Well, anyway, we saw a lot of brutality and we saw a lot of guns pulled on long-haired people. The police denied it completely. They got on the news that night and denied it and said that we initiated a riot. They were going to arrest me for initiating a riot.

And then the photographs started coming in. People ran home and developed photographs—we have some of them published here somewhere—of guns held on people. And that started quite a controversy because we had them, we had the evidence. So I went to Nelson Johnson and contacted some of the black people here in town, and I said, “Look,” you know, “we need your help.” We didn't get much help.

SE:

What do you mean you needed their help?

JP:

Well, we were pushing for a police review board.

SE:

Okay.

JP:

We wanted them to join forces, because about that time they were pushing for a review board, too. Now, we did have—Johnson represented the—sort of the most militant part of the black community.

SE:

Okay.

JP:

We did work quite a bit with other blacks in town—black ministers, older blacks who were liberal. But of course, we felt an affinity to this group, because we considered ourselves, you know, radicals; they are radicals, you know. They didn't buy it. Even during the demonstrations, the moratoriums in Washington, like we would take buses to Washington, and there would be blacks—some blacks on there, but it was a very distant thing. I think that the blacks who were on there—they weren't with Nelson's group—they were mostly interested in the social aspects of the trip rather than any kind of brotherhood which we were trying to build.

SE:

Right. Why do you think—why do you think they were so wary? Why do you think radical, leftist blacks were so wary of your group?

JP:

Well, I asked some of them, and they said that—well, of course, usually I would make a mistake—or I think that all white radicals at that time made a mistake; we would say “Well, you know, we've—we understand what it means to be oppressed. We—you know, they're trying to draft us and they're throwing us in jail and the FBI is after us.” And their response was, “Man, you don't know what it is to be oppressed until you're black. And you're white and you can't understand it.” And I think that distinction that, “We're black, and you can never comprehend what we've gone through, what we've suffered, what we—” that was part of it. Also, I think it was this whole, you know, the white savior thing. “Well, we're going to come in and help you with your black problems.”

SE:

Right. Okay.

JP:

And that kind of paternalism which did carry over. We, at that time we didn't realize it, but it was the same, “Well, we're here to save the day,” type thing.

SE:

Right.

JP:

And I think that came through. And I think they also felt that when it really came down to a point of sacrifice, that there wasn't going to be much from the whites. Now, we were all intent on showing that we were—when it came down the line, we were going to be there. And we would risk jail and we would risk a lot of things to prove that. And maybe we did on a personal level, but we never could on a general level. They knew that the white group would fall apart, which I'm sure it would have.

Now, at Duke Divinity School there were some professors who were very involved at that time. One is Frederick Herzog. He's still there; he's in systematic theology at Duke Divinity School. And he was arrested in Chapel Hill—and Harmon Smith, too, I believe, who is in ethics there. I think they were both arrested. I know Herzog was. And they were very active. And I think they might have had some dealings with the Klan, but they—

SE:

Okay. Their arrests were early in the sixties or—

JP:

Yeah, I'd say early sixties.

SE:

Like during the civil rights in '63-'64?

JP:

Yeah, I'd say in that period, because I got there in '67 and they had—it was kind of one of the stories you've heard about the professors then. At the time I was there was when Howard Fuller was there, and we had the takeover in the Allen [Administration] Building, and that's when the big change—well, I went back in a couple of years ago. They asked me to speak at Duke Divinity School and I couldn't believe it. When I was there, I mean it was—the first year was quiet. Then we had the sit-ins at the quad, then the takeover of the Allen—

SE:

Right, the vigil.

JP:

And for the years I was there, Duke was a pretty militant school. Going back it was really, really different, at least in the Divinity School. I think part of it was that churches decided that they were going to get people in who were going to be dedicated to the evangelism and raising money for the churches, you know. And it was not at all militant. I haven't been back since. Anyway.

SE:

Are you still involved in any organizing efforts now? How would you characterize—since the end of the Vietnam War, how would you characterize black/white counterculture or left wing—however you want to call it—relations?

JP:

It all fell apart. Especially—

SE:

When was it together, though? I mean—

JP:

It was together as long as people were getting drafted and as long as—

Unknown:

[President Richard] Nixon was in office.

JP:

Well, as long as Nixon was in office, even after he supposedly ended the war.

Unknown:

It's when he left office that it just kind of fell apart.

JP:

But I think even before that.

SE:

But you were never really Malcolm X University type-people—I mean, black radicals of that taint and white radicals of your taint, whatever you want to call it, you were never really together at any point, or were you?

JP:

No, in fact, probably—no, I can say that thing in 1974, that march to protest the death penalty, we were together for that one day.

SE:

And that was it?

JP:

Yeah. Well, we did—Nelson and Cecil Bishop, who is a minister here in town, we went down about a week later to the Daily News. We had a series of meetings. This went on—the planning went on for about a month, and afterwards we had meetings for about a month, because the Daily News did an article, which we considered very racist, about the demonstrations. And we met with the editors of the Daily News and demanded a retraction. And out of this demonstration, we met for about a month to try to decide what to do about what we considered a racist press in town, because their story really was—I know I'm not the most objective journalist in the world sometimes—

SE:

Well, no one is. Go ahead.

JP:

—but that was really a bunch of shit, you know. And so we met for about a month, as a group, in black churches, and we got up a petition, I believe. Yeah, we got a petition to try to do something about the newspaper, demanding some kind of retraction or something. Because it really hurt, the story really hurt that effort of us coming together—first time the blacks and whites were together, and it was a terrible story. Then after about a month, it kind of faded away. But I'd say that there has probably been more of a freer feeling.

Unknown:

Yeah, because I was just thinking Nelson Johnson, didn't he work with Sol Jacobs on the war thing?

JP:

Yeah, I think there's probably—since '74 there has been more black/white working together. Not that—I don't know how Nelson and his group stand, but there seems to have been a little bit of reduction in, “Well, we're black and you're white.” I don't know how the other groups have, how their luck has been here now.

We, our organizing dropped off around '74. And we decided—we worked on a project to start the community access television station, and we put a lot of energy in that and in developing The Sun. We've been trying to make The Sun into a community paper and not just issue-oriented, you know, so a lot of our energy has gone in that.

Unknown:

I'll give him the new issue.

JP:

I think the last organizing thing we did—when was Nixon impeached, or when did he leave office? It was after this '74, wasn't it? There was—a group wanted to have a demonstration to declare their dislike for Nixon, to impeach Nixon, and I was against it. We finally—there was a lot of controversy over it. I kept saying, “No. There's not going to be a big crowd. It's going to be bad.” We succeeded in getting Wilbur Hobby to come speak, and the crowd was—were you at that one? The crowd was fifty or sixty people, all long-haired, you know. In the front was, you know, homos[exuals] for—

Unknown:

They were [unclear]

JP:

—gay liberation. We'd never seen them before, never seen them since. But it turned out exactly like I was afraid it was going to.

SE:

Right, okay.

JP:

Luckily, the news people—you know how they can do it. They made it look like it was fifty thousand people. They shot at an angle with just people everywhere. They zoomed in on little old ladies.

Unknown:

That's because they were good folks.

JP:

Well, we had some support there, but it still wasn't good journalism. They zoomed in on little old ladies and the kid with a little sign. But it still was a flop, and that was the last one. And my feeling was that the time of getting the masses together was pretty much over. And my feeling—not talking so much about the black/white thing—but once Nixon got out of office, and even before that, once the war started winding down, the whole counterculture thing just split, and you ended up with the movement really committing suicide and then turning against each other, and also the paranoia that went that. Everybody, every little faction—this group likes yogurt, this one likes sprouts. Well, they were sure that these people were the FBI. You know the whole—

SE:

Sure, sure.

JP:

And it just—that's when I—well, I had been organizing since '65. I started integrating churches and restaurants in Tallahassee, in that black church I had. And so after ten years, I was ready to step back a little bit. So what I'm doing now is finishing my MFA in fiction at UNCG and just trying to develop up my writing. So I really haven't been that active in organizing right now. If the right issues came along, you know, I would. I don't see it as backing off, it's just—

Unknown:

You may challenge yourself.

JP:

Well, or big things have been in the area of media. Up until recently, Greensboro had was called a cross-ownership situation. I don't know much about it, but that's where—

SE:

Yeah, I think I—

JP:

—Landmark [Media Enterprises LLC] news out of Norfolk, Virginia, owned the Greensboro Daily News, the Greensboro Record and [WFMY] Channel 2, which is the whole news media. You see a story one place, you see it everywhere else. So we did a series of articles called, well, The Landmark Connection and had a lot of information from people within the Daily News, you know, the writers and editors and stuff, and did a whole series, and as a result of it forced Landmark to sell Channel 2. They sold it for nineteen million dollars.

Unknown:

Officially about four months ago—five months ago.

JP:

And so we—

Unknown:

But I think that's just as important as anything else we've done.

JP:

Yeah, I think it is.

Unknown:

Because the news now we're getting on Channel 2 is so much different. And they're not afraid to go after the Record or go after other people.

JP:

See, the Daily News ended up buying about 4 million dollars worth of land downtown for like two hundred and ninety thousand dollars, and it was redevelopment funds. It was our funds, and the Greensboro Daily News ended up getting—

SE:

Right, sure.

JP:

Well, who was going to report on it? Any writers that were going to report were told that they would be fired. Channel 2, their sister, they're not going to do it. So two reporters—[Stance Wofford?], who is covering the Wilmington Ten now—he's up for a Pulitzer [Prize] for that—

Unknown:

[unclear]

JP:

Somebody's recommending him. But him and two reporters got together and said, “Okay, we're going to publish this story. And if you want to fire us, okay.” But they got together—everybody at the Daily News, all the lower people supported them, and they got the story in followed by a correction the next day about the land deal. But we were the only media in town that could do it. So most of our effort has been trying to get the TV station started—which went for a year; we did about a hundred hours of programming—and then keeping at the Daily News and Channel 2 to get more investigative reporting set up. And maybe that's not a lot of organizing—

SE:

No, I'm not—

Unknown:

It's a different type of organizing.

JP:

Well, I guess like that last demonstration I was in, you realize that—

Unknown:

It's the same people that go.

JP:

—you can have a demonstration and the news media can refuse to show up, and you didn't have a demonstration. You know, it's a non-event. Or they can come and they can make fifty people look like ten thousand.

SE:

That's right.

JP:

So we realized after all organizing demonstrations, that the news media is the key to a lot social change, and that's what we've been working in.

SE:

That's good.

JP:

It's not as fun as it was.

Unknown:

Well, I really think that's the way to go at it now.

SE:

Sure.

Unknown:

Not that many people listen to people running around with little signs and screaming and yelling.

I'm going to give him a copy of The Sun.

SE:

This has been really good. I'll probably call on Ed Dawson.

Unknown:

Here's the new issue.

SE:

Oh, great. And I'll mail this other stuff—well, I'll probably—I can just drop it by, because I'll be in town later on in the week.

[conversation about the Duke University Oral History Program redacted]

Scott Ellsworth:

—do a kind of a standard addendum to the interview there. [This is] Scott Ellsworth, just had a talk with Jim Price and a woman of his household, in his household on [address redacted] off downtown in Greensboro. It's a middle-class-type, smaller, older home, counter-culturally decorated, and kind of a counterculture-type household. And as you can see, I found Mr. Price to be very helpful, and we will speak with him once again.

Yes, and this interview took place between about 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 25, 1977.