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Event Details

Event Title:  How to Mend a Massacre: Race, Class, Tragedy and Healing in Greensboro, NC,1979
Lecture with retired Professor Bob Withycombe
Date:   Oct 11, 2012
Time:   7:00PM - 9:00PM
Location:   Home of Charlie and Minda McLaughlin Merrow
6013 Lancaster Dr.
San Diego, CA 92120
(619) 287-5576


Join one of Whitman's most engaging faculty members as he recounts the events of the Greensboro Massacre and its after-effects that can still be felt today. Dr. Robert 'Bob' Withycombe, retired professor of rhetoric and film studies, came to Whitman College in 1980 to direct the speech and debate team. For 13 years he laid and strengthened the foundation of what is now considered a top program on the national stage. During his career Dr. Withycombe earned numerous honors at Whitman and in 2009 was named the Washington Professor of the Year, an award sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education in honor of extraordinary dedication to teaching.

On November 3, 1979, a coalition of Klan and neo-Nazis confronted a coalition of union organizers and civil rights workers who were preparing for a legal and peaceful march against the Klan and in favor of greater unionization of the textile mills in the Greensboro, N.C. area. In what could be described variously as an ambush, a massacre, or a shoot-out, the attackers fired into the unarmed crowd of demonstrators, killing 5 and wounding 10. Greensboro: the racially and economically divided city that was home to the first-ever student sit-in protest that launched the modern aggressive civil rights movement, but also a city wedded to outward shows of civility designed to advance the “chamber of commerce image of the new South.” For generations, Greensboro residents were wedded to two competing narratives that were products of vastly different cultural, ideological, and empirical grounds. Over the course of three trials involving the shootings—two criminal and one civil—these two competing narratives were put to the test, and the outcomes were mostly unfortunate and completely unsatisfying to the widows and survivors. In one final effort to rewrite the narratives, this time as a significantly less ideologically grounded single narrative, the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed—the first-ever American TRC. In this presentation I will explore the different competing narratives, the limits of systems of retributive justice, and the potential value in restorative justice.

The Whitman College Alumni Association would like to thank Charlie and Minda Merrow, both members of the Class of 1962, for hosting this event in their home. There will be light hors d'oeuvres and refreshments following the lecture and Q & A.

RSVP by October 5 using the form below.

Directions: From I-8 (Mission Valley Fwy) take the College Avenue exit north. Turn left onto Del Cerro Blvd. and continue for half a mile. Turn right onto Breton Way and then immediately right onto Lancaster Dr. For a map click here.

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