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The Wilmington Race Riots 1898 by Shy Liddell Melisa Hanks. The Wilmington Race Riot was the result of the 1898 white supremacy campaign instituted by the Democratic Party. Democrats fueled racial hatred and promised violence to win the election. Facts about Post Reconstruction North Carolina.
The Wilmington Race Riot was the result of the 1898 white supremacy campaign instituted by the Democratic Party. Democrats fueled racial hatred and promised violence to win the election.
uneducated and non-property owners.
By the 1870s and 1880s the Black vote was becoming increasing important and many Black Republicans were elected to offices including the State Legislature and Congress.
Wilmington and surrounding counties
...was a prosperous port despite the fact that the economic center had began shifting from the coast toward the Piedmont Region.
Ferry at Water Street
Across fromtown at foot of Mulberry
South side Market
between Front and Second
Wilmington was regarded as a "Black Mecca" by some--a fact that some white working men resented and white business leaders saw as dangerous.
Black literacy in North Carolina rose dramatically from virtual total illiteracy to 2/3 that of whites. Black literacy in Wilmington was the highest in the state.
African Americans worked as skilled craftsmen along the river front, owned businesses, and held positions in local government.
However, many African Americans were unemployed or worked only in low-wage, seasonal labor, and black businesses were primarily service operations, which were not integrated into the white financial and business structure.
Religion played an important part in education and charitable
Gregory Normal Institute
St. Luke's AME Zion Church
African Americans from a wide range of backgrounds were able to manage their own businesses and buy homes throughout the city such as these Skilled cotton compress workers pictured here in 1897.
Politics of the 1890s revolved around attempts by Republicans and Populists to “fuse” their voters to defeat Democrats.
John Campbell Dancy
George P. White
Mayor Silas P. Wright
“Fusion” was successful and by 1898 the alliance, composed of the largely black Republican party and the white Populist party swept North Carolina politics by storm.
appointing Wilmington native, Daniel Russell to the seat.
more democratic government
expansion of voter registration
elect a municipal government
The new municipal government included:
four blacks among the city's ten aldermen
thirteen officers among the city's thirty policemen
and blacks in other city offices as well.
during a legally contested election and Republican Silas P.
Wright became mayor.
The 1898 election was viewed by Democrats as pivotal to regaining control of state legislature; a key part of a gradual process to reclaim control of the state and reverse laws created by Fusionists to make government more equitable.
Col. Walker Taylor
Col. Alfred Waddell
The 1898 campaign was the most organized Democratic Party election campaign up until that time.
The Democratic Party machine use printed media, speechmaking and intimidation to achieve victory at all costs.
1892 Cartoon urges
White voters to fear
Raleigh News and Observer
Raleigh News and Observer
"the Secret Nine"- Hugh MacRae and eight other Democrats formed this group to organize a seizure of the city government by violent means after the state elections in the fall. This group maintained close contact with the statewide Democrat white supremacist campaign.
"the Group of Six" - This group was formed by Col. Walker Taylor. These men secretly organized to deliver victory to the Democrats in the fall county and state elections.
The first Red Shirts, a paramilitary group, appeared in North Carolina in the fall of 1898 and, by Election Day, the organization boasted membership in several eastern counties, including a strong contingent in New Hanover.
Red Shirts, such as these men from Laurinburg, held day-long rallies in which they rode through African American communities with their guns in plain sight.
In August, 1898, Manly printed an editorial in response to a speech given by Mrs. Rebecca Felton, the wife of a Georgia congressman and a leading women's rights advocate in the South.
Manly addressed her remarks and the editorial was reprinted within days in every white newspaper in the state, and in many newspapers throughout the South calling it
“an attack on White Christian Womanhood.”
The illegitimate grandson of Charles Manly, NC governor (1849-51), Alex was the mulatto editor of the Wilmington Record – the city’s only African American newspaper.
The day before the election, Democrats held a rally at Thalian Hall in which Alfred Moore Waddell gave a speech that demonstrated his party’s determination:
Rejuvenated by victory, whites met at the courthouse the day after the election to place a series of demands on the African American community.
“We, the undersigned citizens of the City of Wilmington and County of New Hanover, do hereby declare that we will no longer be ruled, and will never again be ruled by men of African origin.”
"The White Declaration of Independence"
Declaring that they represented the sentiment of the white people of the county, they proclaimed that Alexander Manly had to leave the city and the Record cease to be published, and that the Fusionist municipal government led by Mayor Wright and Chief of Police John Melton had to resign.
The Wilmington Messenger, November 14, 1898, with the "Declaration" and 454 signatories to it.
On the evening of November 9, 1898...
The declaration and ultimatum was delivered to the Colored Committee, made up of twenty five black leaders, who were given until 8:30 the next morning to reply.
The black leadership agreed to these demands, but the message was not delivered back to Col. Waddell's home in time the next day.
Waddell had scheduled a meeting with whites at the Wilmington Light Infantry Armory the next morning. At the meeting it was anticipated that he would receive the response by 8:30 from the Committee of Colored Citizens. However, their response had not arrived by 9:30 and Waddell made use of the crowd’s furor -- leading a procession of men to Manly’s press building.
After the press was destroyed, a group of men paused for a news photographer in front of the building. Most of the men then returned to the Armory but some returned to their neighborhood across town by trolley.
According to one native Wilmington historian, “Hell Broke Loose” around 11:00 am near the intersection of Fourth and Harnett Streets in the predominantly African American Brooklyn community. After the first shots were fired at this intersection, several black men lay dead or wounded.
After the first shots were fired, a “running firefight” erupted in the streets with armed men of both races rushing to the scene.
Before the Wilmington Light Infantry could contain all of the violence, shots rang out around Manhattan Park deep in the African American community. At least two African American men died as a result of the action around Manhattan Park.
A fence had surrounded Manhattan Park but was “mowed down” by rifle fire. The day after the riot, one white participant wrote his future wife that he wanted to take her to see the “battle-scarred” trees and buildings in Brooklyn when she returned to the city.
There is an oral tradition that while they were fleeing, the Manly's were stopped at a checkpoint, assumed to be white, given a rifle, and told to "be on the lookout for that “n”(word) editor Manly."
Wouldn’t that be funny if that
Were really true?
Alex and Frank Manly prepare to flee