Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Kojo Nantambu, May 15, 1978. Interview B-0059. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Police tactics split the African American community

One of the ways the police fragmented the African American community was by using the threat of prison sentences to induce some of the young men to turn into informants. In this story, Nantambu explains how that happened in one instance.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Kojo Nantambu, May 15, 1978. Interview B-0059. 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

KOJO NANTAMBU:
This incident happened at Molly's house. This brother named Eugene Wright was shot and at the time they lied--now when I say they, I'm talking about the brothers who did it. It was Donald Reddick, Don Nixon, and this brother named Jerome McClain
LARRY THOMAS:
killed the brother?
KOJO NANTAMBU:
They were in there gambling, man. got shot . This was at Molly's house. It was a very convenient time for them to say that a white man shot and they saw the white man running to a car ...
LARRY THOMAS:
Don got time for that?
KOJO NANTAMBU:
Hell, no. They tried to give Ben time for that. They let the brothers go. The brothers turned into informants, man. The brothers came to us that night--they was crying and carrying on, wanting to know what they was going to. We called Ben down here. Molly wasn't even there, and they put Molly on probation... for nothing. They called and wanted to know what they could do, if we could get a lawyer and stuff like that. They had told F their regular story but F said we'd just wait and see what happened. Ain't nobody told them what to do. They even told the police that F told them "Don't tell nobody. Keep it cool. Keep lying and say it was a white man"--which I don't believe because even that night people were skeptical about what had happened--really didn't believe it, you know, because we wouldn't even do nothing after that. We didn't do nothing behind it. What happened was that these cats went to jail later on that year for burglary and dope and stuff and right after that, they decided... The man told them "you can get out of this if you help us convict Ben Chavis."
LARRY THOMAS:
Was this the trial for the Wilmington Ten, too?
KOJO NANTAMBU:
This was something else. This was the Wilmington Three: Ben, Molly, Peanut, Molly's daughter. We even paid their bond and got them out of jail and stuff like that, so they decided later on that year that they were going to say that Ben had told them to lie, and that Molly [Laughter] to save their own skin... This was one of the very bad things to happen behind that.