One of the basic human rights possessed by those who pick up the
tab for the progress of civilization is the right to be remembered.
                                                                                T. W. Adorno

The White Supremacist Revolution
in Wilmington, North Carolina

Wilmington, NC, 1998

 by Dr. W. T. Schmid
all rights reserved@

    Wilmington, North Carolina, like many American cities, is still largely divided into two racially different communities. The white community shares in an increasingly wealthy economy, enriched by retirees and thriving tourist, recreation, and construction industries. But many African Americans remain separated from the growing parts of the economy, living in less desirable residential parts of the city, politically underrepresented, and mired in lower paying jobs.

    Many white Wilmingtonians take this state of affairs for granted, as something that is somehow "natural," like the ocean or the heat of summer. But African American segregation and poverty is not a natural fact; it can be traced, not only to slavery, but to a single, violent event, which occured approximately one hundred years ago: the Wilmington Riot and Coup of 1898.

    This is the story of that event, the white supremacist revolution that occured in Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1898. It is a story that for many years was suppressed, but it was never entirely forgotten. Sometimes it was discretely referred to as "the unpleasantness," sometimes it was called "the slaughter." There are many things we do not know about it, including just how many African Americans died. We do know that it marked the birth of the Era of Segregation in North Carolina, and that it played an important role in the imposition of the racial caste system throughout the American South.

    The framework for the racial inequality that exists in Wilmington today was built in the violence that happened a century ago. The white supremacy campaign of 1898 insured white political domination and led to the social and economic oppression of African Americans for the next seventy years. As a city, and as a society, we have not yet fully acknowledged and taken responsibility for that injustice.


Chapter 1   Introduction 1: After the Civil War
                                2: Wilmington in 1890
                                3: Black Progress
Chapter 2   Political Leaders 1: The Fusionists
                                     2: The Democrats
Chapter 3   Prelude to the Coup 1: Fusion Success in the 1890's
                                          2: White Supremacist Conspiracy
                                          3: The Manly Editorial
                                          4: The Fall Campaign
                                          5: The White Declaration of Independence
Chapter 4   Riot and Coup 1: The Attack on the Record
                                  2: The Violence Turns Deadly
                                  3: Martial Law is Imposed
                                  4: The City Government is Overthrown
                                  5: The Federal Government Does Nothing
Chapter 5   Consequences 1: Black Exodus
                                  2: Black Disenfranchisement
                                  3: Black Economic Reenslavement
                                  4: History is Rewritten
                                  5: The Era of Segregation
Chapter 6   Wilmington Today: A Tale of Two Cities
Chapter 7   Wilmington Tomorrow 1: Telling the Story of 1898
                                             2: Healing the Wounds
                                             3: Honoring the Memory
                                             4: Restoring the Hope through Inclusion
Chapter 8   What Can You Do?
Appendix    Acknowledgements, Books and Resources