In 1974 in Uganda, a process known as a truth commission was first utilized to effect healing in a victimized people. A truth commission is a process that seeks to “tell a version of history that includes the victims’ experiences and voices, recognizes their humanity and rights, and seeks to come to terms with abuse in all of its many dimensions. Truth commissions can help overcome false assumptions and myths about the past and identify policies and systematic practices at the heart of abuses.” These efforts can “help societies come to terms with how such a thing could happen and what must change in order to avoid similar abuses in the future.” Over 40 such efforts had been empanelled by 2005 with the South African Truth Commission being the most well known.
In the United States, the first such effort occurred in Greensboro, NC
On November 3, 1979 five people were murdered, ten people were wounded, four women and one man were widowed, and the community of Greensboro, North Carolina, was thrown into shock and confusion. Four television crews captured the killings on film. Nevertheless, the perpetrators, members of the American Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan, were twice acquitted of any wrongdoing, in state and federal courts. Eventually, several Klan members, Nazis and Greensboro police officers were found jointly liable for one of the deaths.
The City of Greensboro paid a $351,000 settlement to survivors of the tragedy, but it never fully acknowledged nor apologized for its role. A full accounting of the relevant factors of this well-documented tragedy has not yet been entered into the public record and public consciousness.
The Greensboro Truth and Community Reconciliation Project sought to provide opportunities for the entire city to heal and to come to a clear understanding of the events of November 3, 1979 and their aftermath. The hope was to reach an understanding based on careful and honest reexamination of the roles of the various actors, groups, and institutions, as well as the role of the ordinary citizen. To this end, a commission composed of people with integrity and a variety of gifts, who were willing to commit themselves to seeking the truth amidst all the data and perspectives surrounding this complex situation, was be created.
The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission spent over 2 years in hearing a variety of testimony, reviewing documents, and hosting public forms across Greensboro. The result of their work was a well written 529 page report, that included 29 recommendations for the city of Greensboro. The Beloved Community Center and other organization see the recommendations as steps to positive change in relationships in Greensboro. The Final Report of the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission can be found here: FINAL REPORT!