“Nearly forgotten, Dr. King spoke in Raleigh to an integrated audience of about 5,000 at Reynolds Coliseum at 4 p.m. on July 31, 1966. A counter-protest began two hours earlier with speeches at Memorial Auditorium and continued with a march by members from two factions of the Ku Klux Klan….
“King spoke against ‘Black supremacy’ in Raleigh because Stokely Carmichael had stirred crowds just weeks before in Mississippi by repeating violent declarations of ‘Black Power.’ He also declared. ‘The Negro needs the white man to save him from his fear, and the white man needs the Negro to save him from his guilt.’ ”
“When [Richard Wright] learned I was from Chapel Hill he assumed immediately that I knew Paul Green, with whom he had written the play Native Son. He said, ‘The sleepiest man I ever saw.’ He laughed and talked and laughed that laugh which he later admitted was his first line of defense, though it felt that afternoon like offense. He claimed that Green would go to sleep when they were writing dialogue for the most exciting moments in the play. ‘I’d say a line and look over and there Paul would be asleep.’
“Five years later when I was again in Chapel Hill, teaching, I met Hugh Wilson, a cousin of Paul Green’s, who told me how exciting and dangerous those weeks were when Wright was in town working with Green on the play. ‘Of course he couldn’t stay at the Carolina Inn and there was no other place, so we got him a room down on Cameron Avenue in that big Victorian house behind those two giant magnolias. When the Ku Klux got wind he was there in a white neighborhood, they put out word they were going to kill him. Wright never knew that. Night after night Paul and I walked shotgun on that block. Paul would go up Ransom and I’d go down Cameron for a block or so and then we’d walk back and stand on the corner awhile, then patrol again. All night. I don’t know how Paul could write the next day’….”
“As a 10-year-old Jewish boy in North Carolina, I had a cross burned on my family’s lawn by the local Ku Klux Klan. I am thus particularly sensitive ….”
When I asked for details, Stadiem promptly provided (via his publicist at St. Martin’s Press) this vivid recollection:
“The cross burning happened when I was ten, so I don’t remember many details. I doubt that law enforcement did anything, in that the Klan was still very much feared in eastern NC as a dark shadow presence in the 1950s.
“There was a giant billboard on the Lenoir County line showing a mounted Klansman in white robes on a white horse. The sign read, as I recall: ‘Entering Lenoir County. This is Klan Kountry. All Jews, Negroes and Catholics Stay Out.’ The billboard stayed up for all the years of my youth.
“The mythology was that the Klan had round-the-clock snipers posted in the murky swamps around the billboard, to protect the Klan’s warning sign in case any ‘Yankee Communist Types’ might try to take it down.”