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C M Y K

The Ghosts of 1898


WILMINGTON’S RACE RIOT AND THE RISE OF WHITE SUPREMACY

Destruction of The Daily Record of Wilmington, said to be the only black-owned daily newspaper in the United States at the time, by white supremacists.
COURTESY N.C. ARCHIVES AND HISTORY

CHARLES B. AYCOCK BY TIMOTHY B. TYSON 1898. And Wilmington remained the


Charles Brantley Aycock gradu- center of African-American economic

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n Nov. 10, 1898, heavily armed columns of white men marched into the black neighbor- and political power, as well as a sym-
ated from the University of North
Carolina in 1880, practiced law in hoods of Wilmington. In the name of white supremacy, this well-ordered mob burned the bol of black pride. White Democrats
Goldsboro and became involved in were in no mood to wait.
Democratic Party politics. As
offices of the local black newspaper, murdered perhaps dozens of black residents — the The day after the election, Waddell
unfurled a “White Declaration of Inde-
North Carolina’s governor from precise number isn’t known — and banished many successful black citizens and their so- pendence” that called for the disfran-
1901 to 1905, he championed edu-
cation and white supremacy. He called “white nigger” allies. A new social order was born in the blood and the flames, rooted chisement of black voters.
The following morning, Nov. 10,
died in 1912 while delivering a in what The News and Observer’s publisher, Josephus Daniels, heralded as “permanent good Waddell and a heavily armed crowd of
speech on education.
government by the party of the White Man.” about 2,000 marched to Love and Char-
ity Hall, where the Record had been
JOSEPHUS DANIELS
The Wilmington race riot of 1898 stands as one of the most important chapters in North Carolina’s published. The mob battered down the
After studying door of the two-story frame structure,
at the University history. It is also an event of national historical significance. Occurring only two years after the dumped kerosene on the wooden
of North Car- Supreme Court had sanctioned “separate but equal” segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson, the riot marked floors, and set the building ablaze.
olina’s law Soon the streets filled with angry
school, Josephus the embrace of virulent Jim Crow racism, not merely in Wilmington, but across the United States. blacks and whites. Red Shirts on horse-
Daniels was ad- back poured into the black community
mitted to the bar Despite its importance, the riot has shared their economic grievances. for white women. Newspaper stories and other white vigilantes romped
in 1885, though remained a hidden chapter in our As the economic depression deep- and stump speeches warned of “black through the black sections of town to
he never prac- state’s history. It was only this year that ened, these white Populists joined beasts” who threatened the flower of “kill every damn nigger in sight,” as
ticed. He purchased The News and North Carolina completed its official in- forces with black Republicans, form- Southern womanhood. one of them put it.
Observer in 1896, making it a vestigation of the violence. In addition ing an interracial “Fusion” coalition The Democrats did not rely solely At the end of the day, no one knew
pivotal instrument of the white to providing a thorough history of the that championed local self-govern- upon newspapers, however, but de- how many people had died — esti-
supremacy campaign. President event, the report of the Wilmington ment, free public education and elec- ployed a statewide campaign of stump mates ranged from nine to 300. The
Woodrow Wilson named him secre- Race Riot Commission recommended toral reforms that would give black speakers, torchlight parades and phys- only certainty in the matter of casual-
tary of the Navy in 1913. President payments to descendants of victims. men the same voting rights as whites. ical intimidation. Aycock earned his ties is that democracy was gravely
Franklin Roosevelt appointed him And it advised media outlets, including In the 1894 and 1896 elections, the Fu- chance to become North Carolina’s wounded on the streets of Wilmington.
ambassador to Mexico in 1933. The News & Observer, to tell the peo- sion movement won every statewide “education governor” through his While the violence raged, white lead-
ple the truth about 1898. office, swept the legislature and elected fiery speeches for white supremacy. ers launched a coup d’etat, forcing the
ALEXANDER MANLY Those truths include that what oc- its most prominent white leader, mayor, the board of aldermen, and the
curred in Wilmington on that chilly Daniel Russell, to the governorship. Issue of race and sex police chief to resign at gunpoint. By
Alexander Manly autumn morning was not a sponta- In Wilmington, the Fusion triumph 4 p.m. that day, Waddell was Wilm-
was editor of The neous outbreak of mob violence. It lifted black and white Republicans As in the rest of the state, Wilm- ington’s mayor.
Daily Record, was, instead, the climax of a care- and white Populists to power. Hor- ington Democrats founded their cam- Still, they were not done. The white
believed to be the fully orchestrated statewide cam- rified white Democrats vowed to re- paign upon propaganda, violence and mob gathered at the city jail to watch
only daily newspa- paign led by some of the leading fig- gain control of the government. fraud. Their efforts to persuade white soldiers with fixed bayonets march Fu-
per in the country ures in North Carolina’s history to men to commit wholesale violence sionist leaders to the train station, ban-
owned by an end interracial cooperation and build was made easier in August 1898 when
African-American a one-party state that would assure
Race baiting fuels vote Alexander Manly, the black owner of
ishing at least 21 successful blacks and
their white allies from the city.
at the time. His the power of North Carolina’s busi- As the 1898 political season loomed, The Daily Record, answered a speech
editorial attacking whites’ hypocriti- ness elite. the Populists and Republicans hoped supporting lynchings. Not all interra- Effects of 1898 linger
cal attitudes toward interracial sex to make more gains through Fusion. cial sex is rape, he noted; many white
was used by Democratic leaders to The black-white coalition To rebound, Democrats knew they women willingly sleep with black men. When the new legislature met in
support their anti-black scare tactics. had to develop campaign issues that For Democrats, Manly’s editorial 1899, its first order of business was to
At the end of the 19th century, transcended party lines. Democratic was a godsend, allowing them to sup- disfranchise blacks. In the years that fol-
FURNIFOLD SIMMONS Wilmington was a symbol of black chairman Furnifold Simmons mapped port their lies about predatory blacks. lowed, the leaders of the white su-
After losing statewide elections in hope. Thanks to its busy port, the out the strategy with leaders whose And no one was better at spreading premacy campaign were largely re-
1894 and 1896, the North Carolina black majority city was North Car- names would be immortalized in stat- that message of hate and violence sponsible for the birth of the Jim Crow
Democratic Party turned to Furni- olina’s largest and most important ues, building names and street signs: than Wilmington’s Alfred Waddell. social order and the rise of a one-party
fold Simmons. As party chairman, municipality. Blacks owned 10 of the Charles B. Aycock, Henry G. Connor, The former Confederate soldier was political system.
the former congressman orches- city’s 11 eating houses and 20 of its 22 Robert B. Glenn, Claude Kitchin, a passionate speaker, who riled crowds More than a century later, it is clear
trated the campaign of 1898 that barbershops. The black male liter- Locke Craig, Cameron Morrison, with his famous line: “We will never that the white supremacy campaign
restored Democrats to power. In
acy rate was higher than that of George Rountree, Francis D. Winston surrender to a ragged raffle of Ne- of 1898 injected a vicious racial ide-
whites. and Josephus Daniels. groes, even if we have to choke the ology into American political culture
gratitude, the legislature appointed
Black achievement, however, was They soon decided that racist ap- Cape Fear River with carcasses.” that we have yet to transcend fully.
him in 1900 to a seat in the U.S.
always fragile. Wealthy whites were peals were the hammer they needed As Waddell spoke, the Red Shirts, a Our separate and unequal lives attest
Senate that he held for 30 years.
willing to accept some black advance- to shatter the fragile alliance between paramilitary arm of the Democratic to the fact, though much has changed
ment, so long as they held the reins of poor whites and blacks. They made Party, thundered across the state on for the better and a few things have
ALFRED MOORE WADDELL
power. Through the Democratic Party, the “redemption” of North Carolina horseback, disrupting African-Amer- changed for the worse.
Alfred Moore Waddell served four whites controlled the state and local from “Negro domination” the theme ican church services and Republican But if 1898 has saddled us with its
terms in Congress (1871-1879). A governments from 1876 to 1894. How- of the 1898 campaign. Though meetings. In Wilmington, the Red legacy, it also suggests how we might
gifted orator, he championed white ever, the party’s coalition of wealthy, promising to restore something tra- Shirts patrolled every street in the overcome it. Its central lesson is this:
supremacy in the 1898 election and working class and rural whites began ditional, they would, in fact, create a days before the election, intimidating Human beings make history. So the
was installed as Wilmington’s mayor to unravel in the late 1880s as Amer- new social order rooted in white su- and attacking black citizens. mistakes that North Carolinians made
during the coup that occurred dur- ica plunged into depression. premacy and commercial domination. Through these efforts, the Demo- in 1898 can be overcome, if we
ing the riot. North Carolina became a hotbed of At the center of their strategy lay crats won resounding victories across choose.
agrarian revolt as hard-pressed farm- the gifts and assets of Daniels, editor the state on Nov. 8, 1898.
MORE ONLINE ers soured on the Democrats because and publisher of The News and Ob- Stealing the election would not be Timothy B. Tyson is senior
Read Tim Tyson’s full report at of policies that cottoned to banks and server. He would spearhead a pro- enough for the conservatives. For one research scholar at the Center for
www.newsobserver.com (key word: 1898) railroads. Many white dissidents even- paganda effort that would incite white thing, Wilmington’s local Fusionist Documentary Studies at Duke
tually founded the People’s Party, also citizens into a furor that led to elec- government remained in office. Many University. This is a condensed
THE COMMISSION REPORT known as the Populists. Soon they toral fraud and mass murder. It used local officials — the mayor and the version of an article he wrote
Read the state report at imagined what had been unimagin- sexualized images of black men and board of aldermen, for example — for The News & Observer
www.ah.dcr.state.nc.us/1898-wrrc. able: an alliance with blacks, who their supposedly uncontrollable lust had not been up for re-election in and The Charlotte Observer.

1A, , 2006 C M Y K
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FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006  SECTION H  RALEIGH, N.C.

C M Y K
The Ghosts of 1898
WILMINGTON’S RACE RIOT AND THE RISE OF WHITE SUPREMACY

1H, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006


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Destruction of The Daily Record of Wilmington, said to be the only black-owned daily newspaper in the United States at the time, by white supremacists.

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COURTESY N.C. OFFICE OF ARCHIVES & HISTORY

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n Nov. 10, 1898, armed white men marched through the black sections of Wilmington, murdering all who dared to challenge

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them. As violence filled the streets, others snatched control of the government. After installing themselves in power, they ban-
ished at least 21 successful blacks and their white allies. Although it is one of the most significant chapters in state history, it

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is a story many have never heard. In this special report, historian Timothy B. Tyson describes the carefully orchestrated cam-
paign that spread white supremacy across North Carolina and the South. He explains how many of the region’s leading fig-
ures and institutions seized power, altering the state’s history and creating a legacy that haunts us still.
STORY BY TIMOTHY B. TYSON
THE NEWS & OBSERVER  FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006 The Ghosts of 1898 WILMINGTON RACE RIOT 3

Introduction
largely a hidden chapter in our state’s HOW A RAILROAD TICKET

C M Y K
history. It was only this year that INSPIRED JIM CROW LAWS
North Carolina completed its offi-
In 1892, Homer Plessy pur-
cial investigation of the violence.
chased a first-class railroad
The report of the Wilmington Race
Riot Commission concluded that the ticket — and thereby broke the
EVENTS OF 1898 SHAPED OUR HISTORY tragedy “marked a new epoch in the law. Blacks were permitted to
history of violent race relations in the ride only third class in his
United States.” It recommended home state of Louisiana, which
required separate railway

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n a chilly autumn morning 108 years ago this month, heavily armed columns of white payments to descendants of victims
and advised media outlets, including accommodations for the races.
men marched military-fashion into the black neighborhoods of Wilmington, then the state’s The News & Observer, to tell the Ultimately, the Supreme Court
truth about 1898. heard, and rejected, Plessy’s
largest city and the center of African-American political and economic success. “Under challenge, validating segrega-
Even as we finally acknowledge
thorough discipline and under command of officers,” one witness wrote, “capitalists and the ghosts of 1898, long shadowed tion in public facilities and
by ignorance and forgetfulness, some inspiring a harsher wave of
laborers marched together. The lawyer and his client were side by side. Men of large busi- ask: Why dredge this up now, when restrictive Jim Crow laws.
ness interests kept step with the clerks.” we cannot change the past? But J. PEDER ZANE
those who favor amnesia ignore how
In the name of white supremacy, this well-ordered mob burned the offices of the local black news- the past holds our future in its grip, U.S. RACE RIOTS
especially when it remains unac-

3H, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006


paper, murdered perhaps dozens of black residents — the precise number isn’t known — and ban- knowledged. The new world walks The march of urban racial
forever in the footsteps of the old. massacres that Wilmington led
ished many successful black citizens and their so-called “white nigger” allies. A new social order was was not confined to the South.
The story of the Wilmington race
born in the blood and the flames, rooted in what The News and Observer’s publisher, Josephus Daniels, riot abides at the core of North Car- In 1908, scores of blacks died
olina’s past. in Springfield, Ill., in an attack
heralded as “permanent good government by the party of the White Man.” And that story holds many lessons that drew force from Wilming-
for us today. It reminds us that his- ton’s example. In East St. Louis,
The Wilmington race riot of 1898 was a crucial turning point in the history of North Carolina. It was Ill., white mobs killed as many
tory does not just happen. It does not
also an event of national historical significance. Occurring just two years after the Supreme Court had unfold naturally like the seasons or as 200 blacks and burned
rise and fall like the tides. History is 6,000 out of their homes in
sanctioned “separate but equal” segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson, the riot signaled the embrace of an made by people, who bend and shape 1917. The Chicago race riot of
even more virulent racism, not merely in Wilmington, but across the United States. the present to create the future. The 1919 left 15 whites and 23
history of Wilmington teaches us blacks dead; in 1919 alone,
that the ugly racial conflict that similar riots in 26 other U.S.
This deepening racial chasm shaped North Carolina and the na- cities from Omaha to Washing-
launched an extraordinarily violent tion during much of the 20th century ton, D.C., left scores of bodies.
and repressive era in this country. It was not inevitable. So long as we In Tulsa in 1921, between 150
was a time when some state legisla- remember that past, we might over- and 200 blacks died in a mass
tures — in the North and South — come its legacy. assault.
were controlled by members of the For more than a century, most his- TIMOTHY B. TYSON
Ku Klux Klan. It was a period when torians have obscured the triumph of
groups of respectable white South- white domination in 1898 by calling
erners gathered to burn black men FOUR-PRONGED PLAN
it a “race riot,” though it was not the
in public, brought their children to spontaneous outbreak of mob vio- The events in Wilmington
watch, and mailed their loved ones lence that the word “riot” suggests. were not just a single day of
souvenir postcards of the smoldering In his seminal study, “We Have violence, but part of a four-
corpses. It was a time when African- Taken a City” (1984), H. Leon pronged plan:
Americans lost the right to vote to Prather calls it a “massacre and coup.” 1. Steal the election: Under
a white South determined to con- What another scholar terms the

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the banner of white supremacy,
trol their lives and labor by any “genocidal massacre” in Wilmington the Democratic Party used
means necessary. North Carolina was the climax of a carefully orches-

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threats, intimidation, anti-black
stripped the vote from black men in trated campaign to end interracial propaganda and stuffed ballot
1900. By 1910, every state in the cooperation and build a one-party

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boxes to win the statewide
South had taken the vote from its state that would assure the power of elections on Nov. 8, 1898.
black citizens, using North Carolina North Carolina’s business elite.

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Black firefighters stand on the second floor of the destroyed Love 2. Riot. On Nov. 10, armed
as one of their models. When the violence ended, a war of
and Charity Hall in Wilmington. Children watch on the steps whites attacked blacks and
Wilmington 1898 marked a flow- memory persisted. Our politically

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ering of the Age of Jim Crow. White below. The building housed the city’s black-owned newspaper. their property.
correct public history, carved into
authorities constructed the symbols 3. Stage a coup. As the riot
COURTESY NEW HANOVER LIBRARY marble on our university buildings

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and signs of everyday life to show unfolded, white leaders forced
and the statehouse lawn, exalts the
people their place. “White” and “Col- consulted men who came to power ing that the state take the ballot from men who overthrew an elected gov- the mayor, police chief and

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ored” signs were erected at railroad by leading North Carolina’s white blacks. If whites could not disfran- ernment in the name of white su- other local leaders to resign
stations, over drinking fountains and supremacy campaign. They included chise blacks legally in Georgia, Smith premacy, including Charles B. Ay- from their offices, placing

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at the doors of theaters and restau- Gov. Robert Glenn, U.S. Sens. Lee vowed, “we can handle them as they cock and Josephus Daniels. No themselves in charge.
rants. Hubert Eaton, a black leader S. Overman and Furnifold Simmons did in Wilmington,” where the monument exists to the handful of vi- 4. Banish the opposition.

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in Wilmington, recalled his shock and former Gov. Charles B. Aycock. woods were left “black with their sionaries who were able to imagine After seizing power, whites re-
and dismay in the 1950s to see two Overman urged white Georgians to hanging carcasses.” Right after a better future, beyond the bounds moved opposition by banishing
Bibles in every courtroom, clearly be prepared to use bloody violence Smith’s 1906 election, white mobs of white supremacy. Nor do we re- their most able and determined
marked by race. and promised that disfranchisement raged in the streets of Atlanta and member those who gave their lives opponents, black and white.
The Wilmington massacre in- would bring the “satisfaction which killed dozens of blacks. Soon, ex- for simple justice. Instead, we mis- J. PEDER ZANE
spired bloody racist crusades across only comes of permanent peace af- actly as in North Carolina, the state take power for greatness and cele-
the United States. When whites in ter deadly warfare.” of Georgia took the vote from its brate those responsible for our worst
Georgia, led by would-be governor Smith campaigned across Geor- African-American citizens. errors. The losers of 1898, though
Hoke Smith, sought to take the bal- gia, braying about the protection of Despite their importance, the flawed themselves, have far more to
lot from black citizens in 1906, they “white womanhood” and demand- events in Wilmington have remained teach us than the winners.
4 The Ghosts of 1898 WILMINGTON RACE RIOT FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006  THE NEWS & OBSERVER

Chapter 1
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WILMINGTON: SYMBOL OF BLACK ACHIEVEMENT


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A
t the close of the 19th century, Wilmington was a sym-
bol of black hope in post-Civil War America. The
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largest and most important city in North Carolina,


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it had a black-majority population — 11,324 African-


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Americans and 8,731 whites. The beautiful port city


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on the Cape Fear, about 30 miles upriver from the


open Atlantic, boasted electric lights and streetcars when much
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of the state lumbered along in darkness. Its port did not quite Market Street between
Front and Second streets, 1898.
match those of Savannah or Charleston, but it shipped tons of cot- PHOTOS COURTESY N.C. OFFICE
ton around the world. OF ARCHIVES & HISTORY

Wilmington’s middling prosper-


ity rested upon its black majority.
Blacks owned 10 of the city’s 11 eat-
4H, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006

ing houses and 20 of its 22 barber-


shops. Black entrepreneur Thomas
Miller was one of Wilmington’s three
real estate agents. The city’s business
directory listed black-owned Bell &
Pickens as one of only four dealers
and shippers of fish and oysters.
Many of Wilmington’s most sought-
after craftsmen were also black: jew-
elers and watchmakers, tailors, me-
chanics, furniture makers,
blacksmiths, shoemakers, stone-
masons, plasterers, plumbers, wheel-
wrights and brick masons. Frederick
Sadgwar, an African-American ar-
chitect, financier and contractor,
owned a stately home that still
stands as a monument to his talents
and industry.
What’s more, the black male lit-
eracy rate was higher than that of
whites. The Daily Record, said to
be the only black-owned daily news-
paper in the United States, was
edited by the dashing and pro-
gressive Alexander Manly, the
mixed-race descendant of Charles
Manly, governor of the state from
1849-51.
Black achievement, however,
was always fragile. Wealthy whites
might be willing to accept some
black advancement, so long as
whites held the reins of power. But
C M Y K

black economic gains also pro-


voked many poor whites who com-
peted with them, and wealthy
whites persistently encouraged an-
imosity between poor whites and
blacks in a divide-and-conquer Pedens Shop was one of many black-owned businesses in Wilmington. Blacks owned 20 of the city’s 22 barbershops.
strategy. In the years after Recon- One of the city’s three real estate agents was black. And black-owned Bell & Pickens was one of four shippers of fish and oysters.
struction, aspiring black farmers,
businessmen and professionals of-
ten found themselves the victims of
exclusion, harassment, discrimi-
nation and a range of violence that
included the horrors of lynching.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER  FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006 The Ghosts of 1898 WILMINGTON RACE RIOT 5

Chapter 2
RUSSELL LEADS FUSION

C M Y K
THE FUSION MOVEMENT: EXPERIMENT IN INTERRACIAL DEMOCRACY

D
espite their defeat in 1865, the feverish devotion of the
former Confederates to white dominion did not burn
off like mists in the midmorning sun. For many white
Southerners, black citizenship remained unacceptable
and justified any level of violence. Ku Klux Klan ter-
rorism swept the South. As the federal government be-
COURTESY UNC-CHAPEL HILL
came increasingly reluctant to protect the rights of former slaves,
It would be several genera-

5H, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006


white terrorism and electoral fraud brought about the end of Re- tions before North Carolinians
construction. The Conservatives, who later changed their name to again witnessed the interracial
cooperation that marked the
the Democrats, took power across the region by 1876, and worked race for governor in 1896. After
a heated struggle, the Fusion-
hard to limit black voting.
ists nominated Daniel Russell, a
broad-faced, fleshy white man
The collapse of Reconstruction access to the ballot box and safety of nearly 300 pounds, for gov-
left North Carolina with two dis- from white terrorism. ernor. Though many of the
tinct political parties. While Repub- These “Pops” were not quite as African-American delegates
licans, favored by blacks, controlled devoted to white supremacy as
had favored another candidate,
many federal appointments from their conservative opponents.
Russell swore his support for
Washington, the Democrats ruled Still, poisonous ideas that had
black advancement.
the state and local governments from once served as a rationale for slav-
1876 to 1894. But the coalition of ery — that God had distributed “I stand for the Negroes’
wealthy, working class and rural moral, cultural and intellectual rights and liberties,” he de-
whites that kept the Democrats in worth on the basis of pigmenta- clared. “I sucked at the breast
power began to unravel in the late tion — were as common among of a Negro woman. I judge from
1880s as the American economy white Populists as they were the adult development the milk
headed toward depression. among Democrats. must have been nutritious and
North Carolina became a hotbed As the economic depression deep- plentiful,” Russell joked, mock-
of agrarian revolt as hard-pressed ened, these increasingly desperate ing his enormous girth. “The
farmers soured on the Democrats Populists joined forces with Re- Negroes do not want control.
because of policies that cottoned to publicans. Together they formed an They only demand, and they
banks and railroads. Many white dis- interracial “Fusion” coalition that ought to have it, every right a
sidents rallied around economic is- championed local self-government, white man has.”
sues and eventually founded the Peo- free public education, modest reg- Campaign fliers from the
ple’s Party, also known as the ulation of monopoly capitalism and 1896 election reveal the Fu-
Populists. As the ruling order dis- “one man, one vote,” which would sionist effort to appeal to black

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credited itself through its inability to give a black man the same voting voters. “To the Colored Voters
meet human needs, many of the eco- power as a white man. In the 1894 of Union County” reminded

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nomic dissidents became racial dis- and 1896 elections, the Fusion African-Americans that “two
sidents, too. movement won every statewide of- years ago the Republicans and

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Now they imagined what had been fice, swept the legislature and Populists of North Carolina
unimaginable: an alliance with elected its most prominent white united and made one grand

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blacks, who shared their economic leader, Daniel Russell, to the gov- A cartoon in The News and Observer on Oct. 26, 1898, warned struggle for liberty,” and that
grievances but also sought secure ernorship. only this defeat of the Demo-

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voters of the interracial Fusion coalition of Populists and
In Wilmington, the Fusion tri- Republicans who championed local self-government, free public crats enabled blacks to vote
umph lifted black and white Re-
FUSION VICTORY again. “THE CHAINS OF SERVI-

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education and giving a black man the same vote as a white man.
publicans and white Populists to TUDE ARE BROKEN,” the inter-
SOURCE: THE NEWS AND OBSERVER
Republicans and Populists power. The new Fusion legislature racial alliance reminded black

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oined forces to defeat Demo- reformed local government to allow citizens in an appeal to race
crats in 1894. communities to pick their own lead- best. Nearly all of the white Fu- more democratic government, with pride. “NOW NEVER LICK THE

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894 statewide election results ership, and won a majority of the sionists resisted equality for their all men eligible to vote and hold of- HAND THAT LASHED YOU.”
North Carolina General Assembly Wilmington Board of Aldermen. But African-American allies. But since fice on equal terms, wealthy white Such appeals brought black

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white Republicans and Populists they represented a vital part of Democrats vowed to regain control
House Senate voters out in a gesture of auda-
kept most offices to themselves; only the coalition, quite a few black of the government. cious hope that the interracial
four of the 10 aldermen were North Carolinians took places on Beginning in 1897, they saw
Fusion democracy born in Reconstruc-
coalition
African-Americans, despite the city’s county electoral tickets and won. their challenge as finding a strat-
black majority. tion, but dead for 20 years, could
Imperfect though it was, this Fu- egy that would move the focus of
We must resist the temptation be revived. An estimated 87
sion coalition embodied a brighter disgruntled white voters away from
Democrats to take a romantic view of the future for our state, not just in its their policies. What they needed percent of eligible black voters
Fusionists and imagine that they ideals but in its practical approach was an issue that would shatter went to the polls in 1896, and
0 20 40 60 80 Russell was elected.
Source: 1898 Wilmington Race
represented the same vision as to coalition politics. the fragile alliance between poor
Riot Commission Report the civil rights movement at its Horrified at the prospect of a whites and blacks. TIMOTHY B. TYSON
6 The Ghosts of 1898 WILMINGTON RACE RIOT FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006  THE NEWS & OBSERVER

Chapter 3
CHARLES B. AYCOCK
Charles Brantley Aycock was
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born in Wayne County on Nov. 1,


1859, the youngest of 10 children.
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After graduating from the Univer-


sity of North Carolina in 1880, he THE STATEWIDE WHITE SUPREMACY CAMPAIGN
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practiced law in Goldsboro and


became involved in Democratic
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Party politics. As North Carolina’s

C
harles B. Aycock, governor of North Carolina from 1901 to 1905, has become the central
governor from 1901 to 1905, he
symbol of the state’s progressive traditions, first and most illustrious of our “education
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championed education and white


supremacy. He died in 1912 while
governors.” Politicians in North Carolina making high-minded appeals for education and
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delivering a speech on education.


civility routinely invoke “the spirit of Aycock.” The contradictory truth is that Aycock earned
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his prominence by fomenting a bloody white supremacy revolution in North Carolina. This
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campaign — with Wilmington as its flash point — essentially overthrew the state gov-
COURTESY UNC LIBRARY
ernment by force and by fraud, ending meaningful democracy in the state for generations. How this
10

happened is a lesson in the politics of racial violence and the ironies of public memory.
JOSEPHUS DANIELS
Josephus Daniels was born in
Washington, N.C., in 1862. His fa-
ther, a shipbuilder for the Confed-
eracy, was killed before the child
was 3. His mother soon moved the
family to Wilson, where she worked
6H, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006

for the post office. At age 16, he


entered the world of journalism; by
18 he had bought the Advance, a
paper serving Wilson, Nash and
Greene counties.
After studying at the University
of North Carolina’s law school, he
was admitted to the bar in 1885,
though he never practiced. In-
stead he continued to publish and
NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO
edit newspapers, proving himself
a fierce ally of the Democratic
Party. He purchased The News and Observer in 1894, making it a
pivotal instrument of the white supremacy campaign. President
Woodrow Wilson named him secretary of the Navy in 1913. President
Franklin Roosevelt appointed him ambassador to Mexico in 1933.
Daniels died in Raleigh on Jan. 15, 1948.

FURNIFOLD SIMMONS
Furnifold Simmons was born on
his father’s plantation near Pol-
locksville in Jones County in 1854.
After graduating from Trinity
College (now Duke University) in As the 1898 political season loomed, ticipation remained a smoldering Observer. He spearheaded a propa-
1873, he studied law and began the Populists and Republicans hoped ember that they could fan to full ganda effort that made white parti-
practicing in New Bern. He served to make more gains through Fusion. flame. So they made the “redemp- sans angry enough to commit elec-
one term in Congress (1887-89), The Democrats, desperate to over- tion” of North Carolina from “Negro toral fraud and mass murder.
then lost the next two elections come their unpopularity, decided to domination” the theme of the 1898 It would not be merely a campaign
for that seat. place all their chips on racial antago- campaign. Though promising to re- of heated rhetoric but also one of vi-
After losing statewide elections nism. Party chairman Furnifold Sim- store something traditional, they olence and intimidation. Daniels called
in 1894 and 1896, North Carolina’s mons mapped out the campaign strat- would, in fact, create a new social or- Simmons “a genius in putting every-
C M Y K

Democratic Party named him its egy with leaders whose names would der rooted in white supremacy and body to work — men who could write,
chairman. Simmons orchestrated be immortalized in statues, on build- commercial domination. men who could speak, and men who
the campaign of 1898 that would ings and street signs: Aycock, Henry A propaganda campaign slander- could ride — the last by no means the
restore the party to power. Show- G. Connor, Robert B. Glenn, Claude ing African-Americans would not least important.” By “ride,” Daniels
COURTESY UNC-CHAPEL HILL
ing its gratitude, the legislature Kitchin, Locke Craig, Cameron Mor- come cheap. Simmons made secret employed a euphemism for vigilante
appointed him in 1900 to a seat in rison, George Rountree, Francis D. deals with railroads, banks and in- terror. Black North Carolinians had to
the U.S. Senate that he would hold for 30 years. Winston and Josephus Daniels. dustrialists. In exchange for dona- be kept away from the polls by any
These men knew that the Demo- tions right away, the Democrats means necessary.
crats’ only hope was to develop cam- pledged to slash corporate taxes af- Though it would end in bloodshed,
paign issues that cut across party ter their victory. the campaign began with an ordinary
lines. Southern history and practical At the center of their strategy lay enough meeting of the Democratic ex-
politics had taught them that white the gifts and assets of Daniels, edi-
discomfort with black political par- tor and publisher of The News and CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE
THE NEWS & OBSERVER  FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006 The Ghosts of 1898 WILMINGTON RACE RIOT 7

Chapter 4
SUPREMACY

C M Y K
CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS PAGE

ecutive committee on Nov. 20, 1897.


At its end, Francis D. Winston of
Bertie County published a call for PROPAGANDA, PASSION ACROSS THE STATE
whites to rise up and “reestablish An-
glo-Saxon rule and honest govern-

T
ment in North Carolina.” He attacked o achieve victory in 1898, Democrats appealed to ir-
Republican and Populist leaders for
turning over local offices to blacks. rational passions. They used sexualized images of
“Homes have been invaded, and the black men and their supposedly uncontrollable lust
sanctity of woman endangered,” the
Democratic broadside claimed. “Busi- for white women. Newspaper stories and stump
ness has been paralyzed and prop-
erty rendered less valuable.” speeches warned of “black beasts” and “black brutes”
This claim ignored the enormous who threatened the pure flower of Southern wom-
commercial expansion in North Car-
olina in the 1890s. Despite the pain anhood. They cast any achievement or assertion by African-
of farmers pelted by the national N&O cartoonist Norman Jennett penned caricatures of blacks.

7H, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006


agricultural depression, textile mills American men as merely an effort to get close to white women. THE NEWS AND OBSERVER
had increased fourfold; invested cap-
ital had surged to 12 times its 1890 Aware that a picture could be
value; the number of employed work- worth a thousand votes, Josephus
ers in North Carolina had skyrock- Daniels engaged the services of car-
eted during the decade; and the rail- toonist Norman Jennett to pen front-
road interests had obtained a 99-year page caricatures of blacks. Jennett’s
lease on public railways. But the masterpiece was a depiction of a
truth was not the point. The Demo- huge vampire bat with “Negro rule”
crats clearly planned to portray inscribed on its wings, and white
themselves as the saviors of North women beneath its claws, with the
Carolina from the Fusionist regime caption “The Vampire That Hovers
— and from “Negro domination.” Over North Carolina.” Other images
By any rational assessment, included a large Negro foot with a
African-Americans could hardly be white man pinned under it. The cap-
said to “dominate” North Carolina tion: “How Long Will This Last?”
politics. Helen G. Edmonds, the Sensational headlines and accounts
scholar from N.C. Central Univer- of supposed Negro crimes were
sity, which in her day was called Daniels’ stock in trade: “Negro Con-
North Carolina College for Negroes, trol in Wilmington,” “A Negro In-
weighed the matter in her classic sulted the Postmistress Because He
1951 work, “The Negro and Fusion Did Not Get A Letter,” “Negroes
Politics in North Carolina, 1894- Have Social Equality” and “Negro On
1901.” She wrote: A Train With Big Feet Behind
“An examination of ‘Negro domi- White” were typical.
nation’ in North Carolina revealed The News and Observer was one
that one Negro was elected to Con- of many newspapers spreading anti-
gress; ten to the state legislature; four black propaganda. “The Anglo
aldermen were elected in Wilmington, Saxon/A Great White Man’s Rally,”

90
two in New Bern, two in Greenville, read a headline in the state’s leading
one or two in Raleigh, one county conservative paper, the Charlotte

80
treasurer and one county coroner in Daily Observer. It offered readers a
New Hanover; one register of deeds stream of sensationalized and fabri- The racist assumptions that made it Arms — Blacks to Be Prevented House in Raleigh, pounding the

70
in Craven; one Negro jailer in Wilm- cated stories about black crime, effective were commonplace. With- from Voting in Wilmington, N.C. — podium for white supremacy and
ington; and one county commissioner corruption and atrocities against out the cooperation of the news- Prepared for Race War — Prop- the protection of white womanhood.

60
in Warren and one in Craven.” white women. Star reporter H.E.C. papers, though, especially The News erty-Holding Classes Determined White men have neglected poor
Indeed, all three political parties “Red Buck” Bryant traveled North and Observer, the white supremacy Upon Ending Negro Domination.” and long-suffering white women,

50
were controlled by whites. Two of Carolina filing triumphant dispatches campaign could not have succeeded. The white supremacy forces did he explained in his famous “guilt
them — the Populists and the Demo- about the white supremacy cam- Although he never apologized for not depend solely upon newspapers, and degradation” speech, which he

40
crats — could fairly be described as paign and disparaging accounts of his central role in the campaign, but required a statewide campaign repeated across the state that fall.
hostile to blacks, though the Pop- the Fusion government. Daniels later acknowledged that his of stump speakers, torchlight pa- “For them,” he said of the wives,

30
ulists supported a small degree of Populist leader Marion Butler, newspaper had been harsh, unfair rades and physical intimidation. daughters and sweethearts of white
black office-holding in an arrange- who was elected by the Fusion leg- and irresponsible. The News and Former Gov. Thomas J. Jarvis and men, “it is everything whether

20
ment based on the arithmetic of po- islature to the U.S. Senate in 1895, Observer was “cruel in its flagella- future Govs. Robert B. Glenn and Negro supremacy is to continue.”
litical power. Given that North Car- anticipated the crucial role news- tions,” Daniels wrote 40 years later. Cameron Morrison struck many a Wilmington, Aycock explained

10
olina’s population was 33 percent papers would play in the 1898 cam- “We were never very careful about blow for the conservative cause. later, was “the storm center of the
African-American, it would be far paign. The year before, he wrote, winnowing out the stories or running “The king of oratory, however, white supremacy movement.” Here
more accurate to describe the state “There is but one chance and but them down … they were played up was Charles B. Aycock,” historian was the largest city in the state,
of affairs as “white domination.” one hope for the railroads to cap- in big type.” H. Leon Prather writes, “the Demo- with a black majority and a black-
But to white supremacists, the fact ture the next legislature, and that is Nor was it a secret, as Election cratic Moses, who would lead North owned daily newspaper, and sev-
that black votes — usually for white for the ‘nigger’ to be made the issue” Day approached, that violence was Carolina out of the chaos and dark- eral African-American office hold-
candidates — could sway elections with the Raleigh and Charlotte pa- part of the Democrats’ strategy. ness of ‘Negro domination.’ ” As he ers. Wilmington represented the
was tantamount to domination. They pers “together in the same bed shout- Two weeks before the slaughter in did throughout the campaign, Ay- heart of the Fusionist threat. And so
wanted blacks removed from the po- ing ‘nigger.’ ” Wilmington, The Washington Post cock mesmerized a standing-room- it became the focus of the Democ-
litical equation. This propaganda fell on fertile soil. ran these headlines: “A City Under only crowd at the Metropolitan rats’ campaign.
8 The Ghosts of 1898 WILMINGTON RACE RIOT FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006  THE NEWS & OBSERVER

Chapter 5
EDITORIAL STOKED ANGER WADDELL’S POLITICS
90
80

THE WILMINGTON CAMPAIGN


70
60

E
arly in the fall of 1898, Democratic Party organizers white governor, Charles Manly.
For Democratic strategists,
arrived in Wilmington to press their cause. Most of the
50

Manly’s editorial was a timely gift.


white-owned businesses in town contributed money. In public, Furnifold Simmons
40

fumed that Manly had “dared


George Rountree, a local conservative, and Francis openly and publicly to assail the
30

virtue of our pure white woman-


Winston of Bertie County, organized white supremacy hood.” In private, however, the
20

clubs in the port city. Lawyers William B. McCoy, Democratic Party’s chief strategist
COURTESY UNC-CHAPEL HILL
was far more cheerful. Walker Tay- PHOTO COURTESY OF LOWER CAPE FEAR
Iredell Meares, John Dillard Bellamy and others allowed the White lor, a white Democrat from Wilm-
10

HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Alexander Manly’s editorial ington, wrote: “Senator Simmons,
response in The Daily Record
Government Union — as the Democratic Party headquarters in who was here at the time, told us Born in Hillsborough, Alfred
to a pro-lynching speech deliv- Raleigh dubbed the local clubs — to meet in their offices. that the article would make an easy Moore Waddell began practicing
ered by a Georgia woman victory for us and urged us to try law in Wilmington shortly after
seemed heaven-sent to Demo- and prevent any riot until after the graduating from the University
cratic leaders. Though the Benjamin Keith, a white Populist triumph of wealth and bigotry: election.” of North Carolina in 1853. Rising
African-American editor articu- who served on the Wilmington “The business men of the State are Sen. Ben Tillman of South Car- to the rank of lieutenant colonel
lated painful truths, his adver- Board of Aldermen, claimed that largely responsible for the victory. olina, the South’s most gifted racist during the Civil War, Waddell
saries used it to support their
support for the White Government Not before in years have the bank demagogue, saw no reason to wait. later served four terms in Con-
8H, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006

Union was not altogether volun- men, the mill men, and the busi- Tillman came to North Carolina in
anti-black scare tactics. gress (1871-1879).
tary; the clubs demanded that every ness men in general — the back- the fall of 1898 at the invitation of
“The papers are filled often After his electoral defeat, he
white man in the community join. bone of the property interest of Simmons and bragged that he and
with reports of rapes of white practiced law, edited the Char-
“Many good people were marched the State — taken such sincere in- his fellow Red Shirts, a terrorist
women, and the subsequent from their homes, some by com- terest. They worked from start to lotte Journal-Observer for two
militia, had seized power in South
lynching of the alleged rapist. mittees, and taken to headquarters finish, and furthermore they spent years (1881-82) and remained
Carolina by force and by fraud. Till-
The editors pour forth volumes and told to sign,” Keith wrote. The large bits of money in behalf of the man urged the white supremacy active in Democratic politics. A
of aspersions against all Negroes threat of banishment or worse was cause.” forces in North Carolina to adopt gifted orator, he championed
because of the few who may be plain, he said: “Those that did not The campaign to persuade white his “shotgun policy” and shamed white supremacy in the 1898
guilty. If the papers and speakers [sign] were notified that they must men to commit wholesale violence them for failure to use violence al- election and was installed as the
of the other race would con- leave the city … as there was plenty was made easier in August 1898 ready, especially against Manly. city’s mayor during the coup
demn the commission of crime of rope.” when the black-owned Daily Record “Why didn’t you kill that damn nig- that occurred during the riot.
because it is crime and not try to The white supremacy campaign of Wilmington answered an inflam- ger editor who wrote that?” Till- J. PEDER ZANE
make it appear that the Negroes in Wilmington made fervent ap- matory article in the Wilm- man taunted the crowd.
were the only criminals, they peals for the support of poor whites. ington Messenger. As “Send him to South RED SHIRT VIGILANTES
would find their strongest allies With the blessing of the Chamber of part of the conserva- Carolina and let him
in the intelligent Negroes them- Commerce, it demanded that whites tive propaganda publish any such The white sheets of the Ku
selves … be given the jobs now held by barrage, the Mes- offensive stuff, Klux Klan have become the
“Our experience among poor blacks, especially municipal posi- senger reprinted and he will be enduring symbol of racist
white people in the country tions. However, the campaign was a year-old killed.” vigilantism, but Red Shirts also
teaches us that the women of not led by that symbol of Southern speech by Re- Tillman struck fear in the hearts of
that race are not any more racism — the uneducated “red- becca Felton of headlined the black people. First coming to
particular in the matter of clan- neck.” Georgia that largest rally of prominence in South Carolina
destine meetings with colored In fact, Wilmington’s elite directed urged white the white su- in the elections of 1876 that
men than are the white men the charge. “The Secret Nine,” as an Southern men premacy cam- would spell the end of Recon-
with colored women. Meetings admiring local white historian called to “lynch, a thou- paign, held in struction, red shirts were
of this kind go on for some time the cabal that helped hatch the vio- sand times a week, Fayetteville on donned by men eager to com-
until the woman’s infatuation or lence and coup in Wilmington, in- if necessary,” to pro- Oct. 20. By early mit violence against blacks and
the man’s boldness bring atten- cluded J. Alan Taylor, Hardy L. tect white women from morning, in one ac- their white allies. During Wilm-
tion to them and the man is Fennell, W.A. Johnson, L.B. Sasser, black rapists. count, “vehicles filling all ington’s white supremacy
lynched for rape. … Tell your William Gilchrist, P.B. Manning, In response to this fabricated the streets and thoroughfares gave campaign of 1898, Red Shirts
men that it is no worse for a E.S. Lathrop, Walter L. Parsley and rape scare and call for mass mur- evidence that the white people of patrolled the city’s streets to
black man to be intimate with a Hugh MacRae. It was these men, der, the Record’s editor, Alexander upper Cape Fear had left the plow, intimidate blacks.
and other scions of Eastern North Manly, pointed out that not all the machine shops, the kitchen, nay,
C M Y K

white woman, than for a white J. PEDER ZANE


man to be intimate with a col-
Carolina’s aristocracy, who orga- sexual contact between black men the very neighborhood school-
nized armed militias to take con- and white women was coerced. He room.” Hundreds of white men
ored woman. You set yourselves
trol of the streets and drew up lists also noted that white men rou- showed up in red shirts, paying
down as a lot of carping hypo-
of black and white Fusionists to be tinely seduced or raped black homage to Tillman’s terrorist
crites in that you cry aloud for
banished or killed. women. Why, Manly asked, was it achievements. A delegation from
the virtue of your women while Not only in Wilmington but worse for a black man to be inti- Wilmington led the parade, fol-
you seek to destroy the morality across North Carolina, the white mate with a white woman than for lowed by 300 Red Shirts in mili-
of ours. Don’t think ever that supremacy campaign represented a white man to be intimate with a tary formation, trailed by a float
your women will remain pure the triumph of financial and man- black woman? with 22 beautiful young white
while you are debauching ours. ufacturing interests. Later, the Manly’s charge was particularly in- women dressed in white. The con-
You sow the seed — the harvest Charlotte Daily Observer would cendiary because he embodied its stant boom of cannons added a vi-
will come in due time.” assess the white supremacy cam- truth — the black editor was a direct olent percussion to a brass band
paign and proudly celebrate the descendant of North Carolina’s from Wilmington.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER  FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006 The Ghosts of 1898 WILMINGTON RACE RIOT 9

Chapter 6

C M Y K
SILVER TONGUES AND RED SHIRTS

T
hough Ben Tillman helped fire the boiler of white su-
premacy, Wilmington had plenty of homegrown talent. The
most effective advocate of violence probably was Alfred
Moore Waddell. A lawyer and newspaper publisher born
on Moorefield Plantation near Hillsborough, Waddell had
fought as a lieutenant colonel in the Confederate cavalry.
After the war, he served three terms in Congress, finally losing his seat

9H, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006


to Daniel Russell, the Republican who would become the Fusionist gov-
ernor of North Carolina. Unemployed in 1898, Waddell set out to over-
throw the Russell regime by violence and demagoguery, becoming what Red Shirts were a paramilitary arm of the Democratic Party that disrupted black church services
and Republican meetings. This photo was taken in Laurinburg in Scotland County in 1898.
some called “the silver tongued orator of the east.” COURTESY N.C. OFFICE OF ARCHIVES & HISTORY

Waddell packed an auditorium in [in the other.]” Guthrie warned munities, and drove would-be black A “White Man’s Rally” on Nov. 2 VOTING FRAUD IN 1898
Wilmington early in the fall of 1898, the Fusionists: “Resist our march voters away with gunfire. “Before featured free barbecue and torch-
Intimidation, violence and
where he shared the stage with 50 of of progress and civilization and we we allow the Negroes to control light parades of armed men. The
the city’s most prominent citizens. will wipe you off the face of the this state as they do now,” Con- night before the election, Waddell re- ballot-stuffing were the Election
White supremacy, he declared, was Earth.” gressman W.W. Kitchin declared, minded the armed throng: “You are Day tools of choice of Demo-
the sole issue and traitors to the Men weren’t the only ones calling “we will kill enough of them that Anglo-Saxons. You are armed and crats in Wilmington. The most
white race should be held account- for violence. Rebecca Cameron, there will not be enough left to prepared, and you will do your duty. egregious cases of election
able. “I do not hesitate to say this Waddell’s cousin, wrote to him on bury them.” If you find the Negro out voting, tell fraud occurred in heavily black
publicly,” Waddell proclaimed, “that Oct. 26 to urge him to carry out his Russell, who was from Wilming- him to leave the polls, and if he re- sections of the First Ward.
if a race conflict occurs in North murderous threats. “Where are the ton, complained before the election fuses, kill him, shoot him down in his In the Fourth Precinct, Demo-
Carolina, the very first men that white men and the shotguns!” she that “citizens had been fired on tracks. We shall win tomorrow if we crats dramatically suppressed
ought to be held to account are the exclaimed. “It is time for the oft from ambush and taken from their have to do it with guns.” the black vote. Although 337
white leaders of the Negroes who quoted shotgun to play a part, and homes at night and whipped; and The following day, Nov. 8, 1898, Republicans were registered in
will be chiefly responsible for it. … an active one, in the elections.” that peaceful citizens were afraid to many African-Americans in Wilm- the precinct, the party tallied
I mean the governor of this state The situation was sufficiently des- register” to vote. To quell the vio- ington avoided the polls in hope of only 97 votes.
who is the engineer of all the devil- perate, she believed, that not mere lence, Russell eventually withdrew evading bloodshed. Other black cit- In the Fifth Precinct, Demo-
try.” But his fiery closing, which be- threats but “bloodletting is needed the Republican ticket from New izens attempted to vote. But the crats not only suppressed the
came the tag line of his standard for the hearts of the common man Hanover County. Yet this was not armed white men posted on every black vote, they also inflated
stump speech that fall, made clear and when the depletion commences enough to satisfy his opponents. block by the White Government their own totals. Thirty Demo-
that blacks would bear the brunt of let it be thorough!” Urging her men- When Russell traveled to Wilm- Union certainly kept many away crats were registered in the
the violence. “We will never sur- folk to eliminate Gov. Russell, in ington on Election Day, Red Shirt from the ballot box. Though the in- precinct, but the party earned
render to a ragged raffle of Negroes,” particular, Cameron quoted the terrorists swarmed his train at Ham- timidation might have sufficed,

90
456 votes. A precinct with 343
Waddell thundered, “even if we have Bible in her plea for bloodshed: let and tried to lynch him. To un- given the violent atmosphere and registered voters produced a
to choke the Cape Fear River with “Solomon says, ‘There is a Time derstand the condition of the demo- the withdrawal of the local Repub-

80
total of 607 votes.
carcasses.” to Kill.’ ” cratic process in North Carolina lican ticket, the Democrats never- J. PEDER ZANE
Waddell unfurled his next blood- The threats were not empty. that year, we are forced to con- theless stuffed ballot boxes. Dowl-

70
thirsty declaration in Goldsboro, The Red Shirts, a paramilitary template the governor huddling in ing, the Red Shirt leader who also GOVERNOR ELUDES MOB
where 8,000 white Democrats came arm of the Democratic Party, a mail-baggage car, hiding from a served as a Democratic Party elec-

60
to cheer the long-haired colonel thundered across the state on lynch mob organized by his elec- tion official, explained that he and Despite a flurry of threats,
and other Democratic leaders, in- horseback, disrupting African- toral opponents. others were taught “how to deposit Republican Gov. Daniel Russell

50
cluding Simmons, Aycock and American church services and Re- The Red Shirt mobs ruled the Republican ballots so they could be voted without incident in his
William A. Guthrie, mayor of publican meetings. In Wilming- streets of Wilmington as the 1898 replaced.” hometown of Wilmington on

40
Durham. ton, the Red Shirts patrolled every election approached. Mike Dowling, Democrats won in Wilmington Nov. 8. His return trip to Raleigh
Waddell set the tone and elec- street in the city in the days before a former firefighter who had lost his by 6,000 votes, a huge swing from was not so quiet. His train was

30
trified the crowd with his promise the election, intimidating and at- job for “incompetency, drunkenness two years before, when the stopped twice by Red Shirts —
to throw enough black bodies into tacking black citizens. and continued insubordination,” led Fusionists earned a 5,000-vote including one gang led by a

20
the Cape Fear River to block its The terror went far beyond them through the streets of Wilm- advantage. Even among the disap- future governor, Cameron Morri-
passage to the sea. Guthrie, flanked Wilmington; it was felt in many of ington on horseback. pointed Fusionists, there was some son. Morrison warned the gover-

10
by Red Shirts, imagined a bloody the eastern counties. “The Red Wealthy Democrats provided free relief that the city had been spared nor of vigilantes up the track,
race war. “The Anglo-Saxon Shirt organization caused much un- food and liquor to the white mobs in widespread violence. and persuaded Russell to hide.
planted civilization on this conti- rest and alarm,” the editor of the the streets. Leaders of the white “I awoke that morning with thank- The governor huddled in a
nent,” Guthrie claimed, “and wher- Maxton Blade recalled, “and just supremacy campaign also spent the ful heart that the election has mail-baggage car to avoid a
ever this race has been in conflict before election day made nightly staggering sum of $1,200 on a new, passed,” a white woman, Jane lynch mob.
with another race, it has asserted raids, shot through houses, and rapid-fire Gatling gun. They demon- Cronly, wrote, “without the shed-
TIMOTHY B. TYSON
its supremacy and either con- warned Negroes not to go near the strated its power in early Novem- ding of the blood of either the inno-
quered or exterminated the foe. polls.” On the day of the balloting, ber, leaving no doubt of the conse- cent or the guilty.”
This great race has carried the Red Shirts blocked every road lead- quences for those who openly But even her small and measured
Bible in one hand and the sword ing to Maxton and many other com- resisted the campaign. optimism was unfounded.
10 The Ghosts of 1898 WILMINGTON RACE RIOT FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006  THE NEWS & OBSERVER

Chapter 7
90
80

VIOLENCE IN THE STREETS


70
60

T
he white supremacy campaign was so inflammatory that
violence seemed unavoidable. “You cannot think or
50

imagine anything to equal or compare to the policy the


40

Democrats seem to have adopted to carry this section,”


30

Benjamin Keith, a Fusionist alderman, wrote to Sen.


20

Marion Butler in late October. “I look for a lot of in-


nocent men killed here if things continue as they are now.”
10

Stealing the election would not be Five to “direct the execution of the
enough for the conservatives. For provisions of the resolutions.”
one thing, Wilmington’s local Fu- The committee summoned 32
sionist government remained in of- prominent “colored citizens” to the
fice, since many local officials — the courthouse. “There the black men
mayor and the board of aldermen, for saw arrayed against them the real fi-
example — had not been up for re- nancial powers of the city,” H. Leon
election in 1898. And Wilmington Prather writes, “backed by weapons
10H, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006

remained the center of African-Amer- superior in both number and fire-


ican economic and political power, as power. It was clear, too, that the
well as a symbol of black pride. White voice of white supremacy did not gry blacks and whites. Red Shirts Red Shirts and other vigilantes Wilmington Light Infantry
Democrats were in no mood to wait. waver; there was murder in the air.” on horseback poured into the black romped through the black sections of with rapid-fire gun, 1898.
The day after the election, Hugh Waddell read them the White De- community. Sporadic gunfire quickly town to “kill every damn nigger in COURTESY N.C. OFFICE
MacRae, a Massachusetts Institute claration of Independence. He firmly turned to disciplined military action sight,” as one of them put it. “What OF ARCHIVES & HISTORY
of Technology-trained industrialist explained the white conservatives’ in- at the intersection of Fourth and have we done, what have we done?”
and one of the Secret Nine, called a sistence that “the Negro” stop “an- Harnett streets. “Now, boys, I want one black man cried. And George INTIMIDATING FIREPOWER
public meeting. “Attention White tagonizing our interests in every to tell you right now I want you all Rountree, an architect of the cam-
Men,” the headline in the Wilmington way, especially by his ballot,” and to load,” T.C. James, who com- paign, found himself unable to an- Leaders of the white su-
Messenger proclaimed. Court testi- that the city “give to white men a manded one group of foot soldiers, swer, since “they had done nothing.” premacy movement signaled
mony later described the meeting at large part of the employment hereto- reportedly told them, “and when I Eventually, Gov. Russell was no- their deadly intentions both
the courthouse as a “respectable rep- fore given to Negroes.” He de- give the command to shoot, I want tified of the violence and, from his of- before and during the riot
resentative assemblage of business- manded that the Record stop publi- you to shoot to kill.” fice in Raleigh, called out the Wilm- through their machine gun
men, merchants, lawyers, doctors, cation and its editor leave the city. Thomas Clawson, editor of the ington Light Infantry to restore squad.
divines, and mechanics.” One local The African-American leaders struck Wilmington Messenger, was stand- order. However, the horse-drawn Weeks before the election,
white man wrote to a friend in a compliant pose, as their options ing nearby with a group of news- rapid-fire Gatling gun under the com- local business interests pur-
Raleigh that “businessmen are at pre- were limited. Waddell gave them a paper reporters, and wrote that “a mand of Capt. William Rand Kenan chased a gun capable of firing
sent holding a big meeting to take 12-hour deadline, an empty gesture, volley tore off the top of a [black] brought more fear than peace to 420 rounds per minute. The
steps to run the mayor and some since the Democrats had already man’s head and he fell dead about 20 black neighborhoods. weapon was trumpeted in the
prominent Negroes out of town.” stolen the election, editor Manly had feet in front of the news-hawks.” The At the end of the day, no one knew press and its power demon-
The meeting began with former already fled the city and the Record initial orderly barrages quickly fell to- how many people had died. The New strated to black leaders in an
Mayor S.H. Fishblate calling Alfred had already ceased publication. ward a swirling cacophony of gunfire, York Times, then a conservative pa- exhibition Nov. 1.
Waddell to the podium. Waddell The following morning at 8:15, as white men randomly chased black per, put the death toll at nine. Wad- Just two days before the riot,
unfurled a “White Declaration of Waddell met a heavily armed crowd citizens through the streets and fired dell, writing in his memoirs, esti- the Naval Reserves acquired a
Independence,” drawn up by the at the city’s stately white marble ar- into homes and businesses. mated about 20 black casualties. Hotchkiss gun that could fire
Secret Nine. The U.S. Constitution mory. He lined up the Committee of Sometimes the white marauders Rountree, MacRae and J. Alan Tay-
80 to 100 shots per minute. On
“did not anticipate the enfran- Twenty-Five at the head of the pro- targeted particular blacks. A howling lor put the number at 90. Local his-
the day of the riot, both guns
chisement of an ignorant popula- cession, shouldered his Winchester mob surrounded the home of Daniel torian Harry Hayden, an admirer of
were wheeled through black
tion of African origin,” Waddell rifle, and assumed the head of the col- Wright, a well-known black politi- the white supremacy campaign, re-
cian, whom some accused of having ported that some of his white sources sections of Wilmington and
read aloud. The framers of the umn, his white hair flowing in the
Union “did not contemplate for light breeze. Passing up Market fired on the mob. By the time they boasted that they’d killed “over 100” aimed at crowds under orders
their descendants a subjection to Street, a swelling crowd of men had managed to haul Wright out of black folks. to disperse.
an inferior race.” Never again, the marched to Love and Charity Hall, his house, a large crowd had gath- Echoing the oral traditions of their J. PEDER ZANE
C M Y K

declaration said, would white men the black community center on Sev- ered and murder mutated into grandparents’ generation, some
of New Hanover County permit enth Street between Nun and Church amusement. Someone knocked African-Americans in Wilmington
black political participation. The streets, where the Record had been Wright down with a pipe. “String believe that an honest body count
crowd roared and rose to its feet. published. Led by Waddell, the mob him up to a lamp post!” a member of would have exceeded 300. Since
An appointed committee revised battered down the door of the two- the mob yelled. But the white men about 1,400 blacks fled Wilmington
the declaration, adding calls for the story frame structure, dumped who wanted Wright to run the gant- in the wake of the massacre and
resignations of the mayor, the chief kerosene on the wooden floors and let prevailed. The mob turned him coup, it will probably always remain
of police, and the board of aldermen, set the building ablaze. After it was loose, chanting “Run, nigger, run!” impossible to determine the body
in addition to the demand for Manly’s destroyed, some of the whites posed Wright ran for 15 yards or so until count. The only certainty in the mat-
newspaper to “cease to be published” for a photograph with their guns in about 40 shots ripped him to pieces. ter of casualties is that democracy in
and “its editor banished from the front of the blackened building to “He was riddled with a pint of bul- North Carolina was gravely
city.” The committee selected Wad- commemorate the moment. lets, like a pigeon thrown from a wounded on the streets of Wilm-
dell to head a Committee of Twenty- But soon the streets filled with an- trap,” one observer wrote. ington on Nov. 10, 1898.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER  FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006 The Ghosts of 1898 WILMINGTON RACE RIOT 11

Chapter 8
‘WHITE DECLARATION

C M Y K
OF INDEPENDENCE’
Flush with victory in the
stolen election, Alfred Waddell
unveiled the “White Declaration
BANISHMENT AND COUP of Independence” on Nov. 9.
Given that Wilmington’s politics
and economy were controlled
by whites before and after the
election, the declaration’s seven
main points suggest the wide
gap that existed between reality
and rhetoric in the city that fall.
Here are excerpts from the
declaration:
“First That the time has
passed for the intelligent citi-
zens of the community owning
90% of the property and paying
taxes in like proportion, to be

11H, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006


ruled by negroes.
“Second That we will not
tolerate the action of
unscrupulous white men in
affiliating with the negroes so
that by means of their votes
they can dominate the intelli-
gent and thrifty element in the
community, thus causing busi-
ness to stagnate and progress
Wilmington Light Infantry and Naval Reserves members escort captured blacks. Fusionist leaders were marched to the train station. to be out of the question.
COURTESY N.C. OFFICE OF ARCHIVES & HISTORY “Third That the negro has
demonstrated by antagonizing

W
hile the streets became a killing ground, the Com- the soon-to-be-exiled United States Ari Bryant, who owned a butcher
our interest in every way, and
Commissioner R.H. Bunting, a “po- shop, was “looked upon by the Ne-
mittee of Twenty-Five launched a coup d’etat in the especially by his ballot, that he
litical record of cooperating with the groes as a high and mighty leader,”
Negro element.” the Wilmington Morning Star is incapable of realizing that his
corridors of City Hall, forcing the mayor, the board interests are and should be
Silas Wright, the white Republican mocked, by way of explaining
mayor whom Waddell had deposed, Bryant’s banishment. The most pros- identical with those of the
of aldermen, and the police chief to resign at gunpoint.
fit the same “white niggers” category perous exile may have been Thomas community. …
By 4 p.m. that day, the committee had replaced as Bunting and stood among the first C. Miller, who had been born in slav- “Fifth That we propose in
names on the banishment list. George ery and yet had become a financial the future to give to white men
elected Fusionist city officials, both black and white, a large part of the employment
Z. French, another white Fusionist force in Wilmington, dealing in land,
with its hand-picked white appointees. The new mayor, fresh from lead- stalwart and a deputy sheriff, nar- loaning money and entering mort- heretofore given to negroes …
rowly escaped lynching. A raging mob gages with blacks and whites alike. “Sixth We are prepared to
ing the mobs in the streets, was Col. Alfred M. Waddell. In short, the placed a noose around his neck and One member of the detachment that treat the negroes with justice
started to string him up from a light took Miller recalled that he was “one and consideration in all matters
paramilitary force that wealthy conservatives had built to seize power which do not involve sacrifices of
pole on North Front Street. Frank Negro that we could not make keep
in North Carolina now ran the city of Wilmington. Stedman, a member of the Commit- quiet and he talked and talked until the interest of the intelligent and

90
tee of Twenty-Five, saved the white Ed McKoy’s gun went ‘click click’ progressive portion of the com-
For days after the coup, hundreds battle over we kin wear a crown in the law enforcement officer’s life, but the and when we told him to shut up, he munity. But are equally prepared

80
of African-Americans who had fled new Je-ru-sulum.’ ” mob dragged French to the train sta- kept a little quieter.” now and immediately to enforce
the white mobs huddled in the But the work was not complete in tion and told him to “leave North Car- Like most triumphant revolution- what we know to be our rights.

70
forested thickets around Wilmington. this new Jerusalem along the Lower olina and never return again upon ary governments, having silenced its “Seventh That we have been,
Many had escaped too quickly to Cape Fear. Everyone seemed to un- peril of his life.” principal opponents, the new ad- in our desire for harmony and

60
bother with coats or blankets, and derstand that a purge was in order. Chief of Police John Melton, a ministration declared its devotion to peace, blinded both to our best
slept on the ground in the wet No- “Immediately after Waddell became staunch white Populist, found himself public order. They fired all the black interests and our rights. A climax

50
vember woods. “Bone-chilling driz- mayor,” H. Leon Prather writes, “the accosted, The News and Observer re- and Fusionist city employees, start- was reached when the negro
zling rain falls sadly from a leaden Secret Nine furnished him with a ported, by a mob that would have ing with firefighters and police offi- paper of this city published an

40
sky,” Charles Francis Bourke of Col- list of prominent Republicans, both lynched him but for some soldiers who cers. They declared that school com- article so vile and slanderous
lier’s Weekly wrote from the scene. white and black, who must be ban- intervened. One local white Demo- mittees henceforth would be that it would in most communi-

30
“Yet in the swamps and woods, in- ished from Wilmington.” crat recalled that he would “never for- composed “exclusively of white citi- ties have resulted in the lynching
nocent hundreds of terrified men, The white mob gathered at the get” how Melton looked when “one of zens,” even in black districts. The of the editor. We deprecate

20
women and children wander about, city jail to watch soldiers with fixed the boys went upstairs and took a rope white terror in the streets persisted, lynching and yet there is no
fearful of the vengeance of whites, bayonets march Fusionist leaders to with a noose in it and threw it at his even though Waddell notified whites punishment, provided by the

10
fearful of death, without money, food, the train station. Those local citi- feet, [and Melton] turned just as white “who seem disposed to abuse the op- courts, adequate for this offense.
[or] sufficient clothes.” Children zens slated for banishment fit three as a sheet.” The mob dispatched him portunity of carrying arms which re- We therefore owe it to the peo-
whimpered in the cold, their parents rough categories: African-American and two other white Fusionists on a cent events afforded” that “no further
ple of this community and of this
reluctant to light fires for fear that leaders who insisted on citizenship train to Washington, D.C., amid cries turbulence or disorderly conduct will
city, as a protection against such
the mobs would find them. “In the for their people or who openly op- of “white nigger.” be tolerated.” In an article he wrote
license in the future, that the
blackness of the pines,” Bourke ob- posed the white supremacy cam- The black men who were hustled for Collier’s Magazine two weeks af-
to the train station at the point of a ter the riot, Wilmington’s new mayor paper known as the “Record”
served, “I heard a child crying and a paign; black businessmen whose
hoarse voice crooning softly a mourn- prosperity offended local whites; and bayonet included Salem J. Bell and explained that “there was no intim- cease to be published and that
ful song, the words of which fell into white politicians who had, as the Robert B. Pickens, who operated a idation used in the establishment of its editor [Alexander Manly] be
my memory with the air: ‘When de Wilmington Morning Star wrote of successful fish and oyster business. the present city government.” banished from this community.“
12 The Ghosts of 1898 WILMINGTON RACE RIOT FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006  THE NEWS & OBSERVER

Chapter 9
ated literacy tests for voting and
placed a poll tax on aspiring voters.
The “grandfather clause” protected
90

illiterate whites for a time; any lin-


eal descendant of a man eligible
80

to vote before 1867 — a white man


THE AFTERMATH — need not prove his literacy.
70

Even so, the suffrage amendment


eventually removed voting rights
60

D
espite Mayor Waddell’s assertion of “no intimidation,” mar- from nearly all blacks and many
whites. In 1896, 85.4 percent of
tial celebrations seemed in order. On Nov. 11, a military
50

North Carolina’s electorate had


parade of five companies marched throughout Wilming- cast a ballot. By 1904, less than
40

50 percent would vote.


ton, displaying two rapid-fire guns and the Hotchkiss gun It was not only in the South that
30

democratic horizons narrowed. In


of the Naval Reserves. It was not merely a celebration of a 1900 editorial about the dis-
20

white supremacy but an assurance that the new regime was franchisement campaign, The
New York Times stated: “North-
firmly in charge. The Morning Star called the parade “a formidable
10

ern men no longer denounce the


suppression of the Negro vote in
demonstration of the resources for the maintenance of order.” the South as it used to be de-
nounced in Reconstruction days.
Three days later, the statewide of federal response sent the un- The necessity of it under the
Democratic Party flung a huge street mistakable signal that conservative supreme law of self-preservation
party in Raleigh after nightfall. More white Southerners ruled at their is candidly recognized.”
than 2,000 torches illuminated the own whim and the nation would Its “necessity” seems less evident
cheering throngs, and 500 barrels no longer quibble about who killed to most of us today, but the Wilm-
of burning tar along the parade route whom. ington race riot of 1898 stands
12H, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006

filled the air with plumes of colored The following year, the bloody among the most important events
smoke, creating a carnival atmos- hands that welcomed Red Shirt ter- in the history of North Carolina and
phere. The victorious Democrats as- ror in 1898 moved to take the ballot is a pivotal moment in the history
sembled a booklet, “North Carolina’s away from black North Carolinians of the United States. It was nothing
Glorious Victory, 1898,” that trum- forever. The first order of business less than a counter-revolution
peted the white supremacy campaign in 1899 was to disfranchise blacks against interracial democracy, and
and highlighted its leaders. and many poor whites, making cer- it reverberated far beyond the state.
On Sunday, Nov. 13, the white tain that an alliance of “low-born Its aftermath witnessed the birth
Christians of Wilmington filed into scum and quondam slaves,” as a of the Jim Crow social order, the
their churches and heard celebra- News and Observer editorial put it, end of black voting rights and the
tions of the slaughter. The Rev. would never again threaten elite rise of a one-party political system
J.W. Kramer declared that the white rule. This Democratic Party booklet trumpeted the white supremacy in the South that strangled the as-
mobs in the streets had been “do- The Democrats introduced a con- campaign and highlighted its leaders. pirations of generations of blacks
ing God’s service.” At First Baptist stitutional amendment that cre- COURTESY N.C. OFFICE OF ARCHIVES & HISTORY and whites.
Church, congregants heard the Rev.
Calvin S. Blackwell compare the
victory of white supremacy to the
triumph of the Lord and his heav-
enly hosts over Satan and his “black
robed angels.” He dismissed the
killings as “a mere incident” and ob-
served, without much originality,
that “you cannot make an omelet
without breaking a few eggs. The
primary purpose was not to kill but
to educate.”
In his own defense of mass mur-
der, the Rev. Payton H. Hoge at
First Presbyterian Church parsed a
passage from Proverbs: “He that
ruleth his spirit is better than he
that taketh a city.” The author of
Proverbs plainly was endorsing self-
control, as opposed to the taking of
C M Y K

cities, but Hoge had his own inter-


pretation. “Since last we met in
these walls, we have taken a city,”
crowed Hoge. “To God be the
praise.”
The public silence of those who
opposed the massacre said as much
as the celebrations of those who
supported it. Though besieged by
visitors and telegrams begging for
help for black North Carolinians, A militia unit in Wilmington. Immediately after the election of 1898, military might showed that the new regime was firmly in charge.
Republican President William COURTESY N.C. OFFICE OF ARCHIVES & HISTORY
McKinley said nothing. The lack
THE NEWS & OBSERVER  FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006 The Ghosts of 1898 WILMINGTON RACE RIOT 13

MEASURING

Chapter 10

C M Y K
THE EFFECTS OF
WHITE SUPREMACY
It is impossible to fully measure
the effects of the white
THE IMPACT OF 1898 supremacy campaign on blacks,
but these statistics begin to
suggest them:

Wilmington becomes a white-


majority city.
Wilmington population by race
White Black
20,000

15,000

13H, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006


10,000

5,000

0
1860 1880 1900 1910

North Carolina becomes a


one-party state.
Republican Democrat Other
Percent of votes for governor
1.4 0.1
40.8
57.8 99.9

A scene of the segregated South, taken in 1938 at the Halifax County Courthouse in northeastern North Carolina.
Percent of votes for president
PHOTO BY JOHN VACHON/FARM SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
2.6

T
he Wilmington race riot did not invent segregation in bed, but never his table, with a black Most white Christians came to be- 39.8
woman. Black breasts could suckle lieve that white supremacy was the 60.2 97.4
the South but instead cemented it. Right after the Civil white babies, and black hands could will of God; the Lord himself had
pat out biscuit dough for white placed them above the “sons of

90
War, Southern whites had attempted to segregate pub- 1896 1900
mouths, but black heads must never Ham,” whose appointed purpose was
lic life, often modeling their efforts on laws passed in try on a hat in a department store, to be hewers of white people’s wood

80
lest it be rendered unfit for sale to and drawers of white people’s water.
the North in the 1840s. Newly freed black Southern- white people. Black maids washed This was the genius of white su-

70
the bodies of the aged and infirm, but premacy. Though it was a social or- African-American education
ers chose to build their own worlds of community and suffers.
the starched white uniforms they der imposed and maintained by

60
aspiration, though they steadfastly resisted any segregation that were compelled to wear could not be force, its defenders made it seem Wilmington city school disbursements
laundered in the same washing ma- not only natural but even divinely or-

50
smacked of exclusion. In Fusion-era North Carolina, blacks and chines that white people used. dained. Any challenge to white su- White Black

whites had attempted, in their halting and imperfect way, to prac- The folkways of white supremacy premacy, North Carolina’s superin- 2,000

40
made it permissible to call a favored tendent of schools told an
tice multiracial politics. But the white supremacy campaign slammed black man “Uncle” or “Professor,” so auditorium filled with black college

30
long as he was not actually your un- students in 1927, would represent “a 1,500
the door on democracy and installed a new order. cle or a real college professor. Thus violation of God’s eternal laws as

20
the titles contained a mixture of fixed as the stars.”
The new social order was fre- The racial etiquette that emerged mockery and affection. But a black This was the world shaped by the 1,000

10
quently referred to as “Jim Crow,” from the white supremacist violence man must never hear the words “mis- men who had overthrown the Fusion
after a stock minstrel show charac- of 1898 was at once bizarre, arbitrary ter” or “sir” from white lips. Black government and ensured that white
ter whose antics demeaned African- and nearly inviolable, inscribed in women were “girls” until they were supremacy would reign in North Car-
500
Americans. The power of white skin what W.E.B. Du Bois called “the old enough to be called “auntie.” Un- olina. In the years following the cam-
in the Jim Crow South was both cake of custom.” A white man who der no circumstances should they paign, they crowed about it. “We
stark and subtle. White supremacy would never shake hands with a ever hear a white person of any age have fought for this issue and against
permeated daily life so deeply that black man might refuse to permit address them as “Mrs.” or “Miss.” that policy,” Charles Aycock told sup- 0
Nov. 1898 Nov. 1899 Jan. 1903
most white people could no more anyone but a black man to shave his The eternal racial views of almighty porters before he died in 1912, “but Source: 1898 Wilmington Race
ponder it than fish might consider face, cut his hair or give him a sham- God were well-known to white North everywhere and all the time we have Riot Commission Report
the wetness of water. poo. A white man might share his Carolinians in the Age of Jim Crow. fought for white supremacy.” The News & Observer
14 The Ghosts of 1898 WILMINGTON RACE RIOT FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006  THE NEWS & OBSERVER

Chapter 11
90
80

THE MEMORY OF 1898


70
60

F
or decades afterward, participation in the 1898 cam-
paign became the irreplaceable political credential; at
50

least five of the state’s next six governors were drawn


40

from its ranks. As late as 1920, Cameron Morrison


30

campaigned on his laurels as a Red Shirt Democrat


20

in the “party of white supremacy.”


10

And yet, even as white supremacy “radical agitators” persisted, it could


tightened its grip on North Carolina, happen again.
the memory of what that victory had Broughton was not simply a pan-
entailed — murders, banishments, dering politician intent on main-
stuffed ballot boxes — soon became taining law and order. He reflected
murky. The central episode was the view of much of North Car-
gradually cleansed from our state’s olina’s elite, who still understood
history, from our textbooks and our the violence upon which their world
memories. Eventually, Charles B. rested.
14H, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006

Aycock became known as the edu- During the war, Josephus Daniels’
cation governor. sons, Jonathan and Frank Daniels, of-
However, the raw violence of ten conferred about race relations in
Wilmington was not completely for- North Carolina. Jonathan worked
gotten. It could, of course, be seen as an assistant to President Franklin
every day, everywhere, in the Jim Roosevelt on race relations. Alarmed
Crow world it had made. More than at “the rising insistence of Negroes
60 blacks were lynched in North on their rights,” Jonathan favored
Carolina between 1900 and 1943. small concessions in order to main- A Rights of White People meeting at Hugh MacRae Park in Wilmington, 1971. ‘What we need in this
Whites would often raise the specter tain white domination. “We thought town are some dead agitators. They should be shot and left in the streets …,’ a white man said.
of 1898 when mounting demands we had to get a little justice [for PHOTO BY ANDY HOWELL/WILMINGTON STAR-NEWS
from African-Americans for justice blacks] just to keep them in line,’’ he
made it necessary to remind them of said later. aren’t going to stand for it.” If blacks And yet from the very first hints echoed in our church in 1971 when
what could happen. “Sometimes,” Frank Daniels, who stayed in continued to press for “equality,” of the modern black freedom strug- an African-American woman told
historian Glenda Gilmore writes, Raleigh to publish The News and Daniels insisted, “white people are gle, the memory of violence my father, the Rev. Vernon C.
“murder does its best work in mem- Observer, took a harder stance. If going to rise in arms and eliminate haunted Wilmington. Hubert Tyson, ‘They say that river was
ory, after the fact.” African-Americans continue to “keep them from the national picture.” In Eaton, an African-American physi- full of black bodies.’ ”
During World War II, black on insisting for more privileges,” he the end, Daniels warned, continued cian who pressed for integration It is no wonder that the furious
protests against racial discrimina- wrote, “a worse condition is going to civil rights activism would “mean in Wilmington for many years, re- conflict that marked the black free-
tion blossomed, especially among exist in North Carolina before very that all of [the blacks] that can read calls a 1951 school board meeting dom movement in Wilmington in
black men in uniform. Black soldiers long than the period from 1895 to and write are going to be eliminated in which he was rebuffed by the 1971 brought back memories of
stationed at Camp Davis, 30 miles 1902, because white people just in the Hitler style.” board’s attorney, who alluded to bodies drifting in the current of the
north of Wilmington, overturned Despite several riots and persistent the violence of 1898 “as an effort to Cape Fear. Wilmington’s African-
buses at Grace and Second streets in black protests across the state, the intimidate — to warn that it could Americans realized that the legacy
Wilmington to protest segregation bloodbath some predicted did not happen again.” of the racial massacre still haunted
policies that limited black seating. occur. Newly committed to Amer- In 1971, when the upheavals over the city. And this is only a little less
Mayor Bruce Cameron pleaded with ica’s image as a beacon of democ- school integration tore through true today. Far beyond North Car-
Gov. J. Melville Broughton to “tell racy, the federal government, the Wilmington, a white man at a olina and 1898, the tragic events
them as long as you are governor the national Democratic Party and many Rights of White People rally in that transpired in Wilmington force
colored people will have to behave newspapers, including The News Hugh MacRae Park told the Wilm- us to contemplate the meaning of
themselves.” and Observer, began to actively op- ington Morning Star: “What we America’s racial past and its hold on
On July 11, 1943, Broughton pose white terror after the war. need in this town are some dead the living.
mounted a podium beside the Cape Lynching was no longer a viable agitators. They should be shot and From our vantage point more than
Fear River that Alfred Waddell had political option, though it contin- left in the streets as a reminder for a century later, we can see that the
C M Y K

promised to clot with black bodies. ued to happen occasionally. When a three days and then bury them. I’ve white supremacy campaigns of the
In language evoking the inflamma- black man in Jackson, N.C., mirac- got my gun.” 1890s and early 1900s injected a vi-
tory tirades of 1898 against blacks ulously escaped the clutches of a When Wilmington’s streets cious racial ideology into the heart
preying on white women, Broughton lynch mob in 1947, Gov. R. Gregg raged with violence in early 1971, of American political culture. Our
condemned “radical agitators” who Cherry attempted to prosecute one black woman recalled, her separate and unequal lives attest to
he claimed were seeking “to advance members of the mob, though he schoolteachers warned her about its persistence.
theories and philosophies which if failed. When the Klan committed what had happened at the turn of If 1898 has saddled us with its
carried to their logical conclusion After a violent demonstration dozens of kidnappings, whippings the century. “Those old experi- legacy, it also suggests how we might
would result only in a mongrel race.” by black soldiers in Wilmington and shootings in Eastern North Car- enced teachers,” she told an inter- overcome it. Its central lesson is
Then he cut to the chase: “Forty- during World War II, Gov. J. olina in the early 1950s, 60 Klans- viewer, “… talked in hush-hush this: Human beings make history.
five years ago, blood flowed freely in Melville Broughton made a men were indicted. During the tones about 1898.” But the ghosts The mistakes that North Carolinians
the streets of this city.” It was hard speech invoking the 1898 riots. 1960s, white terrorism persisted along the river persisted in their made in 1898 can be mended if we
to escape the conclusion that if the NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO but rarely won public applause. whispering, and that is what choose.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER  FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006 The Ghosts of 1898 WILMINGTON RACE RIOT 15

Epilogue

C M Y K
BUILDING FROM THE PAST

15H, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006


90
80
70
Modern Wilmington has risen on the banks of the Cape Fear River.
PAUL STEPHEN/WILMINGTON STAR-NEWS

60
A
s a historian, I find it easier to friends and I were playing baseball in Hugh people had none. “The niggers keep talking terracial politics and create strong public in-

50
MacRae Park. As day dimmed toward dusk, about how Waddell said in 1898 they were stitutions — offer examples that we can learn
understand what happened in we huddled in a dugout to smoke cigarettes gonna fill up the river with carcasses,” he said. from. We have made great strides since 1898,

40
the past than to draw easy and discuss the mysteries that seventh-graders “I don’t know if they did or not. But if this in- but the effort to separate people into “us” and
ponder. As we chattered away in the dark, tegration and rioting business doesn’t stop, “them” continues.

30
lessons for the future. We can- we began to hear engines racing and car doors we’re going to clog that river with dead nig- A new Fusion movement, one rooted in
slamming. At first, we assumed that it was only gers this time, and I mean it.” hope and generosity, and encompassing not

20
not go back and change the the stirrings of a Little League game. But What I saw that day was hatred. What I only blacks and whites but new immigrants to
history and yet, as William when we peered out of the dugout, hundreds have seen too often since then is the neglect the state, could still redeem the best dreams

10
of white men and a few women had gathered of public schools and civic responsibilities. that have made us. We look to Wilmington in
Faulkner observed, “The past is never on the baseball diamond, many brandishing ri- What I learned in the years that followed was 1898, then, not to wring our hands in a fruit-
fles and shotguns and others waving U.S. and that the venom and the apathy were an in- less nostalgia of pain, but to redeem a demo-
dead. It’s not even past.” Confederate flags. Several held a banner that heritance, passed down through the genera- cratic promise. And so we hold fast to what
proclaimed the name of their organization: tions from days of slavery and the riot of 1898. Charles Chesnutt, an African-American from
What I do know is that in order to change The Rights of White People. It was only much later that I learned that this North Carolina and one of our great writers,
the past, we must understand and confront it. Their leader, Sgt. Leroy Gibson, walked up sad epic in our state’s and nation’s history called “the shining thread of hope,” which per-
I first heard about the Wilmington race riot of to the makeshift microphone and began bel- harbors stories of hope. In their imperfect mitted him, over a century ago, to close his
1898 in 1971, soon after I entered Roland- lowing about how the “niggers” and “nigger way, the losers of 1898 — the leaders of the own story of the Wilmington catastrophe:
Grise Junior High School in Wilmington. Some lovers” had all the rights and white working Fusion movement who tried to practice in- “There’s time enough, but none to spare.”
16 The Ghosts of 1898 WILMINGTON RACE RIOT FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006  THE NEWS & OBSERVER

The future
WHAT WE TOLD THE CHILDREN: TEXTBOOKS SINCE 1907 SOURCES
In the years after 1898, the state of North Carolina told the story As I wrote this account, I relied
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of the white supremacy campaign to its children in a variety of ways. heavily on the “1898 Wilmington
The earliest textbooks I have found, published in 1901, 1903 and Race Riot Report,” whose princi-
80

1906, ignored these events. The history text my son uses at his pal researcher and author is
Chapel Hill middle school, “North Carolina: A Proud State in Our LeRae S. Umfleet. This report is
RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE COMMISSION
70

Nation” by W.S. Powell, is equally silent — though other contempo- a groundbreaking compilation,
rary textbooks mention the riot in detail. What follows is a sample of including a full narrative of the
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the state’s official history: In May, the 13 members of the Southside; sell properties to low- events in their historical context
1898 Wilmington Race Riot Com- income residents of those sections and informative appendices.
1907 — “Young People’s History of North Carolina” by Daniel
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mission offered recommendations to with guaranteed mortgages). In addition to a variety of


Harvey Hill refers to the election of Daniel Russell, the Fusionist
governor, and then notes that “in the second year of Governor Rus- “repair the wrong” done 108 years archival and newspaper
40

sell’s term, the Democrats elected a majority in the Legislature and ago. Many of the recommendations EDUCATION: Educational informa- sources, I relied upon two books
the State returned in part to Democratic control.” would require action by the General tion about the events of 1898 will be that should interest general
30

Assembly, which returns to Raleigh made available to all ages and re- readers. H. Leon Prather’s book,
1916 — “A Child’s History of North Carolina” by W.C. Allen in January. gions using print, audio-visual media, “We Have Taken A City: The
20

instructs that the Fusion legislature “put the city largely under ne- The text of the commission’s rec- and the worldwide web. Wilmington Racial Massacre
gro rule. … The government of the city was badly carried on, and ommendations: 8. Maintain and update the final re- and Coup of 1898” (1984), is
port of the Wilmington Race Riot
10

lawlessness prevailed.” The account says that blacks fired on whites, probably our best account of
and whites returned the fire, killing several. “After the riot was over EMPOWERMENT: Acknowledging that Commission with the N.C. Office of the tragedy. A short version of
the incompetent negro and white officers of the city were forced to the democratic process failed in Wilm- Archives and History; distribute the Prather’s book appears in
resign, one by one, and competent white men chosen in their places ington, resulting in persistent, unfa- published report to appropriate local, “Democracy Betrayed: The
… a conservative board of aldermen [was] installed, negro policemen vorable treatment especially to the state and national repositories, and Wilmington Race Riot of 1898
discharged ... Thus the revolution was at an end. Since that time African American community, gov- to individuals who contributed to- and Its Legacy” (1998), an
Wilmington has greatly prospered.” ernment leadership at all levels will ward the research and development anthology of articles I edited
pursue actions that repair the wrong. of a more complete record. with historian David Cecelski.
1933 — “The Story of North Carolina” by Alex Mathews with Wal- 1. Acknowledge that the violence 9. Incorporate the 1898 events into I also drew upon scholarly
ter Clinton Jackson teaches: “There were many Negro office-holders in of 1898 was a conspiracy of a white Department of Public Instruction cur-
16H, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2006

works, especially “The Negro


the eastern part of the state, some of whom were poorly fitted for their elite that used intimidation and force riculum learning expectations; de- and Fusion Politics in North
tasks. This naturally aroused ill feeling between the races.” to replace a duly elected local gov- velop appropriate grade-level cur- Carolina, 1894-1901” by Helen
ernment; that people lost their lives, riculum materials; and provide teacher
1940 — “North Carolina for Boys and Girls” by Sarah William Edmonds (1951), which puts the
livelihoods, and were banished from workshops for effectively integrating
Ashe and Orina Kidd Garber (1940) says that under the Fusion race riot in a wide context, and
their homes without due process of the materials into instruction.
government “negroes could hold office. The days of the Carpetbag- “Gender and Jim Crow: Women
the law, and governments at all lev- 10. Newspapers (News and Ob-
gers seemed about to return. But the people of North Carolina re- els failed to protect citizens. server, The Charlotte Observer, and the Politics of White
membered those terrible days too well to allow them to return.” 2. Establish a Restructuring and The Wilmington Star, The Wash- Supremacy in North Carolina,
Development Authority including lo- ington Post, etc.) should acknowl- 1896-1920” by Glenda Eliza-
1958 — “North Carolina History” by Daniel Jay Whitener states: beth Gilmore (1996).
“Negroes who came to the rallies saw the ‘Red Shirts’ and silently cal leadership to supervise imple- edge the role of media in the events
mentation of a strategic vision funded of 1898 and work with the North “Race and Politics in North
slipped away. The Negro by nature was friendly and eager to avoid Carolina, 1872-1901” by Eric
trouble … the Negroes were frightened and on election day many
through an endowment, supported by Carolina black press association to
federal, state and local governments, prepare a summary of the commis- Anderson (1981) furnishes a
stayed at home. The careful planning and leadership of Simmons good overview of the politics of
as well as media and businesses, es- sion report for distribution
helped the Democrats. White supremacy was the issue. … A few days the period. “Maverick Republi-
pecially those which benefited from statewide. The commission calls
later a bad race riot took place in Wilmington. Negroes were killed and can in the Old North State: A
the consequences of 1898. upon said papers to study the effects
both Negroes and white men were wounded. Many Negroes fled from 3. Support amendment of the fed- of 1898 and impact of Jim Crow on Political Biography of Daniel
the town. The revolution of 1898 restored ‘white supremacy.’ ” eral Voting Rights Act to add New the state’s black press and to endow Russell” by Jeffrey J. Crow and
1978 — “Carolina Quest” by Thomas C. Parramore says: “Two Hanover County. scholarships at the state’s public Robert Durden (1977) provides
days after the election a force of six hundred whites gathered at 4. Create a study commission to universities. similar context.
Wilmington and ushered in the new era by wrecking and burning the examine the broader impact of slav- 11. Fund development for a docu- I frequently consulted “The
printing office … In the rioting that followed, ten blacks were re- ery, Jim Crow and discrimination mentary to be aired nationally, re- History of A Southern State:
ported killed and many others fled the city, including black city offi- on the lives of African Americans. gionally and locally. The documen- North Carolina” by Hugh T.
cials. A number of blacks were jailed for ‘starting a riot’ and a new ECONOMIC REDEVELOPMENT: Rec- tary should be suitable for inclusion Lefler and Albert R. Newsome
white administration took over Wilmington’s government.” ognizing the long-term economic dis- in school curriculum materials. (1954); “White Violence and
advantages created by banishment, 12. Increase support for tutoring and Black Response: From Recon-
1987 — “North Carolina: The Story of a Special Kind of Place” loss of civil service positions and in- mentoring programs in New Hanover struction to Montgomery” by
by William S. Powell reports: “In Wilmington, on the night of the timidation, funding from all sources County, targeting at-risk youth. Herbert Shapiro (1988); “Black
election, armed white men appeared on the street. They were deter- will be directed by the Restructuring Wilmington and the North Car-
mined to end ‘Negro rule’ in the city promptly. On Nov. 9 and 10 and Development Authority to im- COMMEMORATION: Recognition of olina Way” by John L. Godwin
there was a bloody riot in which ten or more blacks were killed, the prove economic development op- the documented events of 1898 will (2000) and “North Carolina
office of Alex Manly’s black newspaper was burned, and many blacks portunities. be conspicuously displayed and made Through Four Centuries” by
fled. Republican rule in Wilmington came to an immediate end when 5. Support judicial redress to com- available in prominent public loca- William S. Powell (1989).
pensate heirs of victims who can tions.
C M Y K

Silas Wright, the black mayor, fled to New York. Three days later, the TIMOTHY B. TYSON
Raleigh News and Observer reported: ‘Negro rule is at an end in prove loss and relationship to victims 13. Fund establishment of an 1898
North Carolina forever.’ ” via intestacy statutes. exhibit at the Cape Fear Museum OUR 1898 TEAM
6. Provide incentives for business and creation of a traveling exhibit de-
2006 — “North Carolina: the History of an American State” by development of areas impacted by signed by the museum for use Editor: J. Peder Zane,
Kenneth Townsend teaches: “At no time did blacks ever enjoy repre- the Wilmington race riot of 1898 statewide. pzane@newsobserver.com
sentation equal to their numbers nor did ‘Negro rule’ ever exist in (e.g., establish enterprise zone; 14. Provide additional funding for Design: Teresa Kriegsman
North Carolina. Nevertheless, the Democrats used the race issue to create small business incubator with the New Hanover County Public Li- Copy Editor: Bill DuPre
frighten voters and regain power. … Riding horses, wearing red shirts, tax incentives to attract minority- brary to make resources available Photo Editor: Robert Miller
and carrying guns … Democratic ruffians broke up Fusionist political owned businesses). relative to 1898 and its impact. Graphics: Judson Drennan
rallies, disrupted black church meetings, whipped outspoken blacks, 7. Increase minority home owner- 15. Erect plaques, markers and/or Research: Brooke Cain
and drove blacks from the polls when they tried to register.” ship in impacted areas (e.g., use em- monuments to identify key partici- Project Directors: Steve Riley,
inent domain to acquire vacant com- pants and locations of 1898 events News & Observer; Glenn
TIMOTHY B. TYSON mercial properties in Brooklyn and statewide and in Wilmington. Burkins, Charlotte Observer