Mission Statement:

"To advance through research, education and symposia, an increased public awareness of the Cape Fear region's unique history."

Wilmington's 1898 Race Riot

Frequently Asked Questions

 

 

The following is presented in the interest of providing

accurate information and what is known about the

“race riot” (contemporaries referred to it as the

“Wilmington Rebellion”) and based upon the best

information available – primarily as close to the

conflict as possible and by credible eyewitnesses or

scholars. Most if not all responses to questions have

their sources cited for further reading.

The reader is cautioned to be wary of newspaper reporters who

disregard dilgent research, primary sources, and the

weight of historical evidence -- and make blanket judgments

based upon faulty information.


For an accurate understanding of the political and racial

atmosphere in late 1860s through 1890s North Carolina

and Wilmington, we highly recommend the following titles

as worthy of the reader’s time, and they are cited below:


Reconstruction in NC, Jos. deR. Hamilton, 1971
Politics in Wilmington/New Hanover County, McDuffie, 1979
Editor in Politics, Josephus Daniels, UNC Press, 1941
Life and Speeches of Charles B. Aycock, Conner/Poe, 1912
Prince of Carpetbaggers, Jonathan Daniels, 1958
Chronicles of the Cape Fear, James Sprunt, 1916
Pictorial/Historical New Hanover County/Wilmington, deRosset, 1938

Memoirs of An Octogenarian, John D. Bellamy, Jr. 1941

Some Memories of My Life, A.M. Waddell, 1908

 

 

General Overview

Black newspaperman Alexander Manly, perhaps due to

lagging revenue and prone to inflammatory editorials like

the one cited below, was responding to an 1897 speech by

Georgian Rebecca Felton to a Georgia Agricultural Fair

assembly. She decried the rape of white farm women by

black men while their men were working the

fields, and that this crime had become epidemic.

She blamed the Republican party for fostering the belief

among blacks that their crimes would not

be punished.  Manly's editorial was seen by

responsible citizens across the State as suggesting

that the rape was somehow consensual and

absolving the criminal.

The following is taken from the DeRosset source,

published in 1938:


"The Wilmington Race Revolution, November 10th, 1898,

was the direct result of ill-advice given Negroes by

unprincipled white Republican leaders. This scurrilous

influence, supplemented with recognition given Negroes,

through minor political offices such as magistrates, police

duties, etc., had made the darkies impudent, and insolent.

The situation finally developed to the point where

white women and children were being insulted,

pushed off the sidewalks into gutters.

The racial break came at the time mentioned above.

As a result, within 48 hours, it resulted in the white race

asserting itself and regaining absolute control of the

municipal and county governments.

The conflict was the direct outcome of the general causes

outlined in the opening paragraph. The principal and

motivating final cause, combine with the general insolence

and overbearing attitude of the Negro race, following

bad counsel which they received and followed,

was a diabolical and defamatory editorial.

This appeared in a Negro daily owned and edited by

a contemptible Negro named F.L Manly.

This defamatory editorial was as follows,

published under date of August 18, 1898:

“Poor white men are careless in the matter of protecting

their women. Especially on the farms. They are careless

of their conduct toward them. Our experience

among poor white people in the country teaches us that

women of that race are not more particular in the matter

of clandestine meetings with colored men than the white

men with colored women. Meetings of this kind go on

for some time until the woman’s infatuation or the

man’s boldness, bring attention to them, and the man is

lynched for rape. Every Negro lynched is called ‘a big

burly black brute.’ In fact, many of those who have

been thus dealt with had white men for their fathers,

and were not only not ‘black’ and ‘burly,’ but were

sufficiently attractive for white girls of culture and

refinement to fall in love with them, as is very

well known to all.”

As indicated, the above defamatory editorial brought

the situation to a climax. The result was that within 48

hours (when the break came about a month following

publication of the editorial) the white men of the city

rose in their wrath and indignation. They overthrew

the then-existing radical, Republican Government and

drove the majority of the Negroes’ white

leaders from the city."

What caused the racial violence?
For the long answer, one needs to start with the end

of the War Between the States and the population impact

on Wilmington of thousands of black refugees who

followed the Northern armies and remained in the city.

After the war those new black residents, as well as

the existing, were drawn into the Republican party of the

North through the Union League organization,

with the purpose of maintaining Republican political

hegemony in North Carolina and the South.


Probably the best short answer is the racial unrest,

still existing since 1865, fueled by the carpetbag and

scalawag political domination of Wilmington -- the latter

supported by the black poplusation and opposed by the

minority white population -- laid the groundwork for

conflict.  The radical black newspaper editor Alexander

Manly, who was condemned by responsible black leaders

across the State, printed his editorial and lit the fuse.

Armed black men fired upon white residents

at Fourth and Harnett Streets who were returning from

Manly’s burning newspaper office building and thus began

the violence.  Reports of armed blacks marching from nearby

Brunswick County and the black leader of the local

black-dominated Republican Executive Committee

discovered ordering Winchester rifles spread alarm

throughout the white community.

Add to this sad reality the extreme racial polarization of the

1890s that was evidenced by the Republican party in North

Carolina being virtually all black, and the Democrat party being

virtually all white. Those black citizens who voted Democrat

were ostracized and often violently dealt with

by black Republicans.

Did John Dancy Blame Manly for the Violence?
John Dancy was the black Collector of Customs in

Wilmington, a political appointment by the national

Republican party and the highest-paid position in the

State. Being a purely political position, the Collector

was expected to increase party power and authority in

his area. Dancy was well-aware of the Republican party

machinations that increased racial unrest.


“ . . . John C. Dancy, informed several audiences in New

York [after the conflict] that the Manly editorial was

“the determining factor” in bringing about the riot.

Cyrus D. Bell, editor of the Afro-American Sentinel

in Omaha, Nebraska, also blamed Manly for the

violence. (McDuffie)


“ . . . John C. Dancy, a Negro collector of the customs

at Wilmington . . . denounced the extreme conduct of

members of his race. [Black] Parson Leak of Raleigh

advised the Negroes to stay out of politics and to ally

themselves with good white people. He declared himself

in favor of the disenfranchisement of all illiterate Negroes

and favored the Jim Crow car law. He blamed [Republican

Governor Daniel] Russell for the Wilmington trouble

and other ills, which had brought on race bitterness.”

(Daniels)

 

Was there an overthrow or Wilmington city government?

No, and there was no "coup" as many uninformed

people claim today.  There was indeed a peaceful change in

who was mayor and aldermen, and all was done according to

the letter of the law as established by the Fusion-revised city

charter of 1897 which required new appointments made

after current aldermen voluntarily resigned.

It can be safely assumed that there was significant pressure applied

in the demand that current aldermen resign, and that they no doubt

felt responsible for the deplorable state of racial affairs in the

city at that time.  After Mayor Silas Wright voluntarily resigned,

he was replaced by former United States Congressman Alfred

Moore Waddell, a highly-respected Wilmingtonian.

See the following taken from contemporary sources:


"On the evening of the day of this revolution, the mayor and

board of aldermen then in charge of the city of Wilmington

resigned, and their successors were nominated and elected.

Thus there was an entire change in the city government…

we realize that the results of the Revolution of 1898

have indeed been a blessing to the community.”

(Sprunt)

“Tonight the city is in the hands of a new municipal

government and law and order is being established.

This afternoon, the Board of Aldermen resigned one

by one. As each alderman vacated, the remainder

elected a successor named by the citizen’s committee,

until the entire Board was changed legally. They

resigned in response to public sentiment.

The Mayor and Chief of Police then resigned and

the new Board elected successors, according to law.”
(Raleigh News & Observer, November 11, 1898)

The Wilmington Board of Aldermen was not democratically-

elected prior to 1898.  Under the new city charter

altered by Russell's Republican fusionists, the Governor

was to appoint half of the city Aldermen with the rest

being locally-elected -- this ensured the election of a

Republican mayor and control of city

government by Republicans.

“Under the provisions of the 1897 [Fusion legislature-

modified city] charter, Republican Governor Daniel Russell

could . . . appoint five Fusionist aldermen to the Board

during the city’s next aldermanic election. Additionally,

the power to appoint the members of the Board of Audit

and Finance still remained in the governor’s hands,

and he would be appointing [5] members of this

[10 member] body in March 1899.” (McDuffie)

“The (Wilmington) Chamber of Commerce adopted

resolutions stressing “that the revolution in the city

government that displaced a weak and incompetent

administration and legally instituted a new and representative

government, was accomplished without violence, and

was the legitimate result of the combined moral

influence of the intelligence and wealth of the community.”

(McDuffie)

 

What did contemporary accounts of the violence state?

For the most trustworthy source of information about an

event such as this, go to the writings of the time of the

event or shortly afterward. They must be sifted and

compared, but they are all we have as an historical record.

"As some of the white men who had participated in the

march on the Daily Record were making their way home,

they passed through the Brooklyn section of the city . . .

one of the black residential sections of Wilmington.

[S]hooting started coming simultaneously from both

sides. The whites responded with "a volley from shotguns,

Winchester rifles and revolvers." Some of the blacks

returned the fire, and they wounded three whites,

William Mayo, George Piner, and N.B. Chadwick.”

(McDuffie)

“[N]o person was injured until a Negro deliberately and without provocation shot a white man, while others, armed and defiant, occupied the streets, and the result was that about twenty of them were killed and the rest scattered. (Sprunt)

“Bloodshed, as Colonel [Alfred Moore] Waddell stated . . .

was begun by the Negroes, it being the purpose of the

white people to avoid all bloodshed and needless violence.”

(Sprunt)

A Negro printing office was destroyed by a procession of perfectly

sober men, but no person was injured until a Negro deliberately

and without provocation shot a white man, while others, armed and

defiant, occupied the streets, and the result was that about twenty

of them were killed and the rest of them were scattered.

Former Congressman Alfred Moore Waddell

states in his "Memories":

"The history of that event, as was to have been

expected, was grossly misrepresented by that element

of the press and the people of the Northern States

who were ever ready to condemn the white man and

sympathize with the Negro in the South; but the

great majority of people in all parts of the country

justified the movement – if not by expressed

approval at least by abstaining from any

condemnation of it, and a very convincing

evidence of the spirit in which it was regarded

by the Federal authorities was given by their

silence and inaction concerning it."

 


“About one o’clock some Negroes in a house fired upon

a passing party of white men. The house was surrounded

and four Negroes captured and taken to jail.”

(Fayetteville Observer)


“The dead victims of the riot, all Negroes, were buried

yesterday. There were six of them.” (Fayetteville Observer)


“(E)leven Negroes had been killed and nine

Negroes and nine white men wounded.” (Daniels)


“The actual outbreak, resulting in loss of life, happened

in the northern section of the city, early in the afternoon.

A Negro fired into a crowd of white men, standing

near the corner of Fourth and Harnett Streets.

One white man was seriously wounded. Later,

another was shot and painfully hurt. During the

turbulence and conflict which resulted, it was

estimated that from seven to ten Negroes

were killed.” (DeRosset)

What happened after the initial violent clash?
“In an effort to disarm the city’s blacks, [Col.]

Walker Taylor detailed a detachment of the WLI

[Wilmington Light Infantry] and the Naval Reserves

to search some of the black churches. It was rumored

that these black churches were stacked with arms and

that black men were hiding there waiting for the

opportune time to strike . . . [and] that there were . . .

300 to 500 “fully armed” blacks advancing on

Wilmington from adjoining Brunswick County.”

(McDuffie)


“Martial law has been enforced all night. All Negroes

are stopped, searched and escorted to home. The Armory

is decorated with a motley collection of weapons:

Winchesters, razors, pistols and guns of every

description have been taken from the Negroes.”

(Fayetteville Observer)

Was the 1898 conflict the first such event in Wilmington?
No.  The first occured in the early 1870s when Northern

political opportunists agitated black residents to violence.

Consider the following:

“In the early [1870s], when Wilmington and New Hanover

County were absolutely under the control of a large

Negro population, which had drifted there from South

Carolina and other parts of the country, attracted by

the Freedmen’s Bureau, a national institution that gave

rations and clothing to the recently emancipated slaves;

a howling mob of Negroes, being led by a notorious

white man by the name of James Heaton, seized and took

possession of the town; several thousands of the mob

smashing windows, ruining property, and were about to

set fire to the town.


Alfred Waddell, calling together a handful – hardly

more than a hundred – of brave and fearless men,

with a gun in his hand, led a charge on the large mob

of Negroes, put it to flight, and in less than an hour

drove the rioters to their homes and restored order.

The weak and pusillanimous government continued

to function once more in peace.”


Again, in 1898, under similar circumstances, he called

on and drove out of office the weakling, Mayor Silas

Wright, an old-time carpetbagger, and in a most skillful

manner – under the form of law but in terrorem – made

each officer resign seriatim, filling his place with a

reputable citizen and property holder, one by one,

until an entirely new board of aldermen and officers

were placed in charge of city government, and the

former disreputable member expelled from the town,

never to return again. Colonel Waddell

was elected mayor . . . “ (Bellamy, pg. 72)

What role did Alfred Moore Waddell play in the conflict?
Waddell was a prominent Wilmingtonian and former US Congressman

who was well-respected by both white and black residents. He defused

a previous riot of black residents mentioned above. He spoke to Wilmington residents in November 1898 regarding the difficult

conditions that prevailed in the city and were caused by

Gov. Daniel Russell's administration..

“Colonel Alfred Moore Waddell’s speech, which was

in line with Guthrie’s -- they were the high-water marks

of the [Goldsboro White Supremacy campaign]

convention -- was mainly devoted to vivid word pictures

of conditions in Wilmington. He detailed the intolerable

conditions which compelled even ministers of the

Gospel to patrol the streets at night to

protect their homes.


“We are going,” declared Waddell, “to protect our

firesides and our loved ones or we will die in the

attempt, and I don’t say that for the purpose of

winding up in an oratorical flight. That determination

is in the minds of the white men of Wilmington and

we intend to carry it out.”


He declared that the Wilmington people would drive out

the Manley’s and the Russell’s and the horde

of corruptionists . . . “ (Daniels)

Is Leon Prather's “We Have Taken a City” a credible account?
Not according to historians familiar with the historical record of

the 1898 conflict. Lower Cape Fear Historical Society Archivist

Diane Cashman wrote the following in 1985 after receiving an

advanced copy of “We Have Taken a City”:


“ . . . I am distressed at [Prather’s] poor documentation.

He overlooked several scholarly works available at

UNC-W and on page 17 states; “no slave revolt

occurred in the state of North Carolina.” A recent

N.C. Historical Review graphically described t

he slave up-risings in antebellum N.C. Seems odd

that a scholar would miss that gory bit of local

history.” (Cashman letter, 24 April 1985)


“I confess that I have not completed your book yet,

but . . . when I started reading it I was a bit alarmed at

errors I found. First, I went to the bibliography and

noted at once that many sources here in Wilmington

were overlooked. There are also errors in names.

In the introductory chapter you make the blanket

statement that N.C. had no slave uprisings. Enclosed

are a few pages on the subject which would

make it appear otherwise.”

(Cashman letter, 16 May 1985)

How did Republican Gov. Daniel Russell affect the conflict?
Russell was elected in 1896 by the “fusion” votes of

black Republicans and farmer Populists, all promised

shared power and influence in his administration. As a

political payoff for delivering the votes of black

North Carolinians, Russell appointed many blacks

to government positions.


“Among [Governor] Russell’s first acts as governor

was a full pardon of John Statcher, a leading Negro

politician and henchman of the Russell-Manning clique.

Statcher was a [Wilmington] policeman found guilty

of robbing a store in Wilmington, at night, while on

his beat; he had been caught in the act.”

(Bellamy, pg. 120)

How did Gov. Russell's administration come to power?
Russell was seen as a cunning political opportunist and greatly disliked

by the Republican party in North Carolina and could never have

become governor as a Republican -- he won the postion with the support of black Republicans and the newly-formed Populist farmers which

was called "Fusion." The intent of this political movement was to

restructure State political affairs to prevent Democrats from regaining political ascendancy. Ironically, they established the new Wilmington

city charter which was followed to the letter by white Wilmingtonians

who achieved a new and responsible city government

in November 1898.

“[I]n 1894, the Populists and Republicans fused their

interests and not only elected several congressmen

and judges, but, what was far more important,

captured the Legislature. In 1896, by the same

methods, they secured control of all three

branches of the State government and of many

of the Counties.

The basis of their control was the solid Negro vote

estimated at from 120,000 to 125,000. Thus, the

people of North Carolina were to see tested again

the experiment which had failed during the days

of Reconstruction---the effort of a party composed

chiefly of a Negro constituency to provide good

government for a Commonwealth founded

upon an Anglo-Saxon civilization.


Coming to power upon a distinct pledge to restore

local self-government to the people of the State,

the Fusionists proceeded to carry this pledge into

execution. An act (entitled “An act to restore to

the people of North Carolina local self-government)

was passed which overturned the system of County

government then in operation.

Whether so intended or not, the new system turned over

to the Negro rule the chief city of the State, several

important towns and many of the eastern Counties.

Then the country saw repeated the scenes which

have made the memory of Reconstruction a

nightmare to the people of the South.

Negro politicians, often illiterate, always ignorant,

always corrupt, presided over the inferior courts,

dominated County school boards and district school

committees, and served as County Commissioners

and City Councilmen.


They were found on the police force of the State’s

chief city, they were made City Attorneys, and they

were numbered among the County coroners, deputy

sheriffs, and registers of deed. Lawlessness, violence

and corruption followed.

In some of the Counties the situation became

unbearable while in such towns as Wilmington,

New Bern and Greenville neither life, nor property,

nor woman’s honor was secure.

Governor Aycock did not exaggerate the situation

when in his inaugural address, he declared that during

those years of Negro rule “lawlessness walked

the State like a pestilence---death stalked abroad

at noonday—“-sleep lay down armed”, the sound

of the pistol was more frequent than the song of

the mockingbird---the screams of women, fleeing

from pursuing brutes closed the gates of our

hearts with a shock.”
(Conner/Poe)

What concerned white voters about “Black domination?”
“The historian will not undertake to say that the party

in power intended to produce this condition of affairs,

but he will say that Governor Aycock was right in his

analysis of the situation when he declared: “we have had

but two periods of Republican rule in North

Carolina---from 1868 to 1870, and from 1896

to 1898. That party contains a large number of

respectable white men, but the Negro constitutes

two thirds of its voting strength. Government can

never be better nor wiser than the average of the

virtue and intelligence of the party that governs.”
(Conner/Poe, Doubleday)

Why was the Republican party in NC all black in the 1890s?
“The Republican party in all the Negro belt is weaker today

than it has ever been since the day of its birth on

Southern soil. It is hard to find one young white man of

ability and promise who admits himself to be a

Republican. Many of the best federal offices have

been given to colored men, although it might have been

simple justice to recognize all elements in the distribution

of party rewards, the administration has been misled

by unscrupulous politicians into appointing black

men whose conduct makes them offensive to

the white people of their communities.


Until recently . . . the colored people have been

disposed to invite the leadership of respectable white

men. But now, the tendency is towards the elevation

of the most corrupt Negro element to control of the

party in the black counties . . . In places the GOP was

nothing more than a Negro party and “there is scarcely

a precinct in the black belt where you can find active

white Republicans enough to obtain even the semblance

of a fair election. Our adherence to the fundamental

principles of Republicanism cannot be weakened by

the conduct of corrupt and venal upstarts who want

to keep honest white men out of the party.”
(Raleigh Signal, April 7, 1892, Address of Leading

White Republicans, Daniel L. Russell & George W. Stanton)

Why the black disenfranchisement of black voters?

Though a desperate measure after the 1898 violence to solve

what white leaders deemed a serious problem, they saw

the removal of black voting rights as a way to strip the

Republican party of its dependable black voter base. 

Their stated strategy was to educate black North

Carolinians in the responsibilites associated with the

franchise and not sell their votes to the Republican party

for petty political offices.

Their aim was to restore the black franschise once their

political education was complete.  The Democrat/Conservative

party was not without political sin or corruption, but the view

from today can see the political machinations between two

political parties vying for control and once in power, to take

measures to keep the other from ewver returning to power.

This does not justify what occured, and the historian can only

review the evidence and explain what occured and why --

and avoid at all costs judging the past from today's

sensibilites and standards..

Was there an overthrow or Wilmington city government?
"On the evening of the day of this revolution, the mayor and

board of aldermen then in charge of the city of Wilmington

resigned, and their successors were nominated and elected.

Thus there was an entire change in the city government…

we realize that the results of the Revolution of 1898

have indeed been a blessing to the community.”

(Sprunt)

“Tonight the city is in the hands of a new municipal

government and law and order is being established.

This afternoon, the Board of Aldermen resigned one

by one. As each alderman vacated, the remainder

elected a successor named by the citizen’s committee,

until the entire Board was changed legally. They

resigned in response to public sentiment.

The Mayor and Chief of Police then resigned and

the new Board elected successors, according to law.”
(Raleigh News & Observer, November 11, 1898)

The Wilmington Board of Aldermen was not democratically-

elected prior to 1898.  Under the new city charter

altered by Russell's Republican fusionists, the Governor

was to appoint half of the city Aldermen with the rest

being locally-elected -- this ensured the election of a

Republican mayor and control of city

government by Republicans.

“Under the provisions of the 1897 [Fusion legislature-

modified city] charter, Republican Governor Daniel Russell

could…appoint five Fusionist aldermen to the Board

during the city’s next aldermanic election. Additionally,

the power to appoint the members of the Board of Audit

and Finance still remained in the governor’s hands,

and he would be appointing [5] members of this

[10 member] body in March 1899.” (McDuffie)

“The (Wilmington) Chamber of Commerce adopted

resolutions stressing “that the revolution in the city

government that displaced a weak and incompetent

administration and legally instituted a new and representative

government, was accomplished without violence, and

was the legitimate result of the combined moral

influence of the intelligence and wealth of the community.”

(McDuffie)

Did “thousands of black citizens” flee the city?

It is logical that the majority of black Wilmingtonians

adhered to the Republican party and shared in the

patronage and administration of Governor Russell,

which was offensive to white Wilmingtonians. Therefore,

many black residents who were prominent in the local

Republican party fled the city after the violence.


“The [Wilmington] Morning Star estimated in

July, 1899, that over one thousand blacks had left

the city since the previous November.

Although it is impossible to determine the number

of blacks who had left Wilmington as a result

[of the conflict] . . . there was a decrease of 826

or 5.9% from 1890 to 1900.”

(McDuffie)

“Mayor Waddell today sent a number of well-known

Negroes through the woods adjacent to the city the

reassure the hundreds of Negroes hiding in all directions.

An effort is made to get them to return to their homes by

assuring them that they will not be harmed if they go

quietly about their work and maintain an

inoffensive deportment.”
(Fayetteville Observer)


“On November 11, almost immediately after the

election, the Wilmington people determined to be

rid of the men who had conducted a government

bordering on anarchy.”(Daniels)

Were white and black Republicans ejected from the city?

Again, white Wilmingtonians felt that the local Republican

leadership and Gov. Russell were responsible for the

racial unrest and subsequent violence in Wilmington.


“On November 11, almost immediately after the election,

the Wilmington people determined to be rid of the men

who had conducted a government bordering on anarchy.

They---the Cape Fear Vigilantes, though they did not

give themselves that name---gave notice, after eleven

Negroes had been killed and nine Negroes and nine

white men wounded, that the men who had been

responsible for the bad government and race troubles

should leave the city.


Among these was G.Z. (Gizzard) French, white

carpet-bagger, who had been State Senator, the author

of the law that put Wilmington government under the rule

of the Negroes and their allies. He and the others were

escorted to the train by a squad of white militia with fixed

bayonets. It was believed that French went to Washington.

Carter Beaman, colored, went to South Carolina;

Tom Miller, Pickens Bell, Aaron Bryant and

Rev. I.J. Bell were put on the train

and told never to return.


They also ran out of town Trial Justice R.H. Bunting,

ex-Chief of Police John R. Melton, Charles McAllister,

Isaac Loftin, colored, and an ex-policeman. These men

went to New Bern but were not allowed to remain there

and had to move on. Loftin and McAllister had

sold firearms to the Negroes. R.B. Reardon

and W.E. Henderson, Negroes, fled before being

run out of town. Some of them who were driven

out of Wilmington located at Richmond and

the Richmond authorities notified them that

they were not wanted.


Manley was said to have gone to New Bern but

could not be found there. He seemed to have

disappeared off the face of the earth, but later

the Washington Star published an interview with

a man claiming to be Manley, who denounced

the Wilmington people and the people of North

Carolina in vigorous terms. It probably was Manley.”

(Daniels)

Did Black Wilmingtonian’s Suffered Property Loss?

The first of its kind on the 1898 incident and currently

the most authoritive, Mrs. Cody’s study used tax records,

deeds and city directories before and after the incident.

“Simply put,” she wrote, “no cases of property seizures

were found. Dr. McLaurin… UNCW history professor…

called her research “rock solid.”
(Wilmington Star News, June 4, 2000)

“Word of widespread property theft has been a

staple of the 1898 legacy. In 1998, historian Leon F. Litwack

wrote that nearly 1500 blacks, “most of them propertied,

chose to leave the city; whites moved quickly to confiscate

their property for unpaid taxes.”
Mrs. Cody’s research contradicts that claim, which

others had voiced before Mr. Litwack. Although Mrs.

Cody found several cases in which blacks sold their

property at a loss, others held onto their properties

and made money on them after the riots, according

to her research.” (Star News, June 4, 2000)

When did the racial tension subside after the conflict?

The following is an illuminating commentary of the racial

conflict in North Carolina which ended in

violence in Wilmington.


“A day or two after the election, the Negro State Fair

was held in Raleigh. The Negro manager had invited

Governor Russell to open the fair, but he declined

the invitation. On the morning of the opening of the fair,

Parson Leak, Methodist preacher who had been a

Republican leader in 1894 and 1896, but who had

broken with Jim Young and the other Negro leaders in

1898, came by and asked me to make a speech

opening the fair. I told the parson that in view of

my activity in the white supremacy campaign,

I felt that the Negroes might not relish my addressing them.

“On the contrary,” he said, “this old rascal [Russell]

who is up in the Governor’s mansion, who has gotten

everything he has from Negroes, has been ungrateful.

They have no respect for him. They know that at heart

you are their friend and they need somebody who was

a leader of the white supremacy campaign to give

them assurance of friendship and protection.

You are the very man they want.”


And so I went out and opened the Negro Fair.

The Negroes had assembled in great numbers. I tried to

voice to them the genuine friendship which the leaders of

white supremacy felt for them and pointed out that it

was a campaign not directed at the law-abiding and

industrious Negro, but at the Negro slave-drivers

of which Russell was at the head, and assured them

that the day of election for them was really a day

of emancipation from corrupt party leaders.


The Negro leaders followed---Professor Bruce, of Shaw

University, and John C. Dancy, collector of customs at

Wilmington, and other wise Negroes---and counseled

peace and acceptance of the situation, so that in a few

days the State was as quiet as if there had never

been a heated campaign.”

(Daniels)

Compiled by historian Bernhard Thuersam, Director

of the Cape Fear Historical Institute. Mr. Thuersam

has researched, studied and commented on the 1898 conflict

since the mid-1990s, is former Chairman of the Cape Fear

Museum Board of Trustees, and attended/recorded

most of the State-appointed 1898 Wilmington Race

Riot Commission’s quarterly meetings,

2003 through 2005, to which he suggested

pertinent research sources.

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