Violence, Intimidation and Identity: The Lumbee Indians and the Klan in Roberson County, North Carolina, 1958-1966
In the 1950s and 1960s the American South was under great pressure to accept the new ideals of equality of the races. Politicians from the local mayor to the United States President mulled over and debated the need of desegregation, equal rights and greater respect for minorities. African American leaders, such as Martin Luther King Jr., would teach that education, peaceful sit-ins, court cases and boycotts, were the route to equality. The Civil Rights Movement stressed the importance of non-violence and many books, essays and papers have been written on the movement. But is non-violence the only way that the Civil Rights Movement should be remembered? Were there other groups along with the African Americans that made significant contributions to the fight for civil rights? Who were these people? What happened, who was involved and why have they been forgotten? The Lumbee population in Robeson County, North Carolina contributed to the Civil Rights Movement, not through peaceful protest, but through the threat of violence against an organization that understood only violence and aggression. In 1958 the Lumbee attacked a Klan rally and forced it to disperse. In 1966, the very threat of violence thwarted a return visit by the Klan - thus rendering that year's proposed rally a 'non-event'. In this way, the Lumbee accomplished what other groups were unable to do as effectively or swiftly in previous years in North Carolina and the South. Yet their victory in 1966 has been widely overlooked in the history of the Civil Rights Movement. The non-event of 1966 makes only rare appearances in the historiographies of the Klan and the Lumbee people. No references appear in the substantial literature of the Civil Rights Movement. The failure to recognize the actions and success of the Lumbee in 1966 is unfortunate. Why has this period of the non-event been so largely overlooked? Its neglect could be due to the fact that because the non-event of 1966 featured intimidation and the threat of violence, which were not an ideal of the mainstream and accepted Civil Rights movement. In this paper will attempt to explain the significance of a non-event that has been largely ignored and only mentioned briefly in passing. The non-event that took place between the Lumbee people of Robeson County and the United Klans of North Carolina has perhaps blurred the perception of what the 'correct' procedures of the Civil Rights Movement were. The people and groups who participated in the non-event of 1966 should be remembered. This thesis will explain what happened, the parties involved and question why this accomplishment was significant and why it is still ignored. Yet, most importantly, will report more than a few sparse sentences about an event that although should not necessarily be celebrated, should be acknowledged and further studied.