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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Lyman Johnson, July 12, 1990. Interview A-0351. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Johnson mistaken for white by National Guardsmen

The National Guard set up security checkpoints between the two major black neighborhoods in Columbia to keep unsuspecting white visitors away. They mistook Johnson for a white soldier and tried to keep him from entering the neighborhood.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Lyman Johnson, July 12, 1990. Interview A-0351. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JOHN EGERTON:
And where your father lived, that was the only black residence in that neighborhood, wasn't it?
LYMAN JOHNSON:
That's right. They said, "Well, where they live?" And when I told them out here on East Ninth Street, well, these out of town guards had been given a map, here was the Negro neighborhood over here, here's a Negro neighborhood over here, here is a corridor going all the way out here to the next town. Now, from this courthouse way on out there to the next town, for five miles out that way, we're the only the black on that side. So when I said I was going out to East Ninth Street, they didn't know any better. They just assumed only white people out there.
JOHN EGERTON:
So you didn't tell them anything?
LYMAN JOHNSON:
No, it wasn't my business. So then I got through. But when I got to the last checkpoint, these people said-this was about 2:30 in the morning-they said, "Now look, fellow, you better stay here with us until daylight because some of the. . . ." Now, this is the way I surmised what was going on in the white mind. These were white people telling me. . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
Whom they thought was a white person?
LYMAN JOHNSON:
I assume that they thought I was white, and this next point actually makes me think that they actually believed I was white. "Look man, you better stay right here with us until sunrise, because there's one bunch of damn niggers over here and one neighborhood of niggers over here. And they come down almost to this highway going out this way. And they swear that for every Negro we kill, they're going to kill two whites. They don't care who they are. They're going to kill two whites for any Negro."