Sandra Adams, an 18-year-old freshman at A&T State University here, has lived in Greensboro all her life, and could barely recall encountering any of the humiliation and terror of the old segregated South that was a reality for her parents.
But she sensed something strange on the afternoon of Nov. 3, the day Ku Klux Klansmen and Nazis boldly opened fire on a group of anti-Klan demonstrators at a public housing project, leaving four people dead on the ground. A fifth died later.
"We went to the grocery store," Adams recounted to a visitor, "and everbody black was looking at each other funny."
One local black banker confided to an old acquaintance last week that for several days afterward, blacks took their guns, shotguns and rifles out again. Some began carrying weapons regularly.
Nelson Johnson, an Air Force veteran and experienced Greensboro community organizer who was one of the leaders of the demonstration in which the five were killed, moved his wife and two daughters out of their secluded farm house on the outskirts of town. It was too isolated for safety.
There was even more tension in the air then, Johnson recalled, than a decade earlier when National Guardsmen were brought in to squelch demonstrations in the black community, and one student was shot and killed.
In Washington, the resurgence of Klan activity in various parts of the country comes across as only a smattering of news stories with distant datelines, competing with politics, scandal, glamour and sports. A cross is burned every now and then in Prince George's County.
But here, where the dateline is Greensboro, the emergence of the Klan is a stark reality, and the Klan appears to be playing for keeps.
There are no night riders or burning crosses. Only bomb threats and a feeling of kinship between city authorities and the Klan. There are the pictures of all those bodies which were on the ground just a few blocks away. And last week, a feeling of uneasiness charged the air whenever a cluster of white men in short jackets and farm hats was spotted watching another anti-Klan march from a few yards away.
Memories are short. A few such reminders will do.
"We are tired of this terror," one preacher said in a prayer before the start of the march. "Lord, we just can't take it anymore." And many, cap-covered and standing on the frozen ground, nodded as if to say, "Amen."
The resurgence of the Klan is seen as just one of many indications that the hands of time may be turning back for blacks. For those in the South, that means going way back -- to a time few would like to recall.
Like many other communities across the country, Greensboro bears the trappings of newly-found black success. More neighborhoods are integrated, many blacks have become affluent at an earlier age, the school system is no longer segregated and the new black middle class here has developed its own tinsel-like, Piedmont chic style to show off its new found wealth. Certainly, things are not as bad as they once were.
But what may fear has happened is that the young blacks, raised on integration and spared much of the brunt of overt racism, have taken things for granted.
"The more affluent young black does not appear to be as sensitive to our problem and there does not appear to be that commitment that there once was," said black banker A.S. Webb. "That's what's going to kill us. We don't know anything about our history. And integration has made it worse."
The broad-based black unity of the civil rights era has gone. (Perhaps it was only illusionary in the first place.) Local ministers refused, for example, to support a march against the Klan because they considered it "not in the best interests" of the city.
Not one of the four who launched the historic sit-in at the Woolworth's lunch counter downtown 20 years ago participated in the anti-Klan march either, even though their activism had been commemorated at day-long festivities the day before.
It was a "personal" decision, one explained. Another, Jabreel Khazan, complained, "I think a lot of people have misused this movement. They misused a lot of innocent people and got innocent people killed."
There are connecting threads through all the protests, the complaints and even the internal fighting. It is the realization that civil rights may have been gained, but human rights and economic parity are a long way down the road. While some things have changed for the better, others have changed for the worse.
"The South is becoming as subtle with its racism as the North has been," one well-established middle class black businessman said privately. "They know how to play the game now.
"The attitude of the people who are in charge of things is repressive," he said."I see a lot of Klansmen in pinstriped suits."
The people of Greensboro have known struggle before. Hundreds were arrested during the sit-ins of the early 60s, and many a mother and father, from the shotgun shacks near the Lorillard Corp. tobacco plant to the red brick hillside bungalows along Benbow Road -- this city's "Gold Coast," -- are said to have put up their homes to keep sons and daughter out of jail.
Blood has been spilled, like that of Willie Grimes, the student who was killed when National Guardsmen moved onto the campus of A&T in 1969 to quell student demonstrations. The pock marks from the guardsmen's bullets still scar the west wall of Scott Hall, the men's dormitory.
And now, with the Klan again "rearing its ugly head from the bottomless pit of terror," as one minister said, the same kind of Bible Belt preaching and singing that gave faith to civil rights demonstrators is again being heard and warmly received. The song the Fellowship Gospel Choir sang last week after a moving sermon by Andrew Young captures the spirit:
"I don't feel no ways tired.
I come too far from where I started from.
Nobody told me that the road would be easy.
But I don't believe He brought me this far just to leave me."