|Date(s):||November 10, 1898|
|Location(s):||NEW HANOVER, North Carolina|
|Tag(s):||African-Americans, Crime/Violence, Race-Relations|
|Course:||“Rise And Fall of the Slave South,” University of Virginia|
On Thursday, November 10, 1898, at half past eight o'clock in the morning, a committee of twenty-five leading white citizens directed a group of four hundred armed men of Wilmington, North Carolina and gathered outside the armory of the local militia company where they formed in lines of four. The men included prominent clergymen, lawyers, bankers, and merchants of the city. They proceeded to march into the Negro Quarters to seize A.L. Manly's, editor of the Daily Record, printing office. They invaded the building, destroyed fixtures, and overturned kerosene lamps, starting a fire that spread and consumed the top floors. The news of the white mob quickly reached a cotton compress where approximately 300-400 African Americans were at work. These men immediately halted their work and went to the streets, creating mass chaos. It is unclear how trouble started but the whites opened fire on some African Americans on a street corner, killing three of them. Following that, the white men followed several other black men to their houses, dragging them into the streets, killing some and arresting others. By late afternoon, the twenty-five man committee marched to the City Hall and overturned the incumbent government, placing power entirely in the hands of the white Democratic Party. At the end of the day, white guards patrolled every street corner.
The tragic events of the day evolved out of the determination of white voters and taxpayers to take control of the city and county governments. The white Democrats had explicitly stated that they planned to manipulate the ballot boxes and enforce the resignation of the Republican Party from office and the removal of the republican county ticket, whether peacefully or by revolution if necessary. The day following the election, white citizens met under the leadership of Alfred Waddell and decided to take control of the entire city government, adopting resolutions that forced the Mayor and Chief of Police to resign and expelling A.L. Manly from Wilmington within twenty four hours. Manly had published an article in August denouncing white women in response to a speech given the previous year by a prominent Georgian woman where she condemned black men as white women's greatest danger. Manly's editorial rapidly became both a rallying point for white supremacists and a source of shame for African Americans. The committee had sent the orders of the resolution to prominent black leaders within the community and the directions told them to respond to Mr. Waddell by seven-thirty in the morning as to whether they would acquiesce with the removal of the printing press. Unfortunately, it was later discovered that they had mailed the response to Mr. Waddell in a letter that did reach the committee until three hours later than the designated time. In that letter, they had agreed to remove the press and expel Manly from the community, in addition to condemning his article.
In his study, David Cecelski agreed with other historians that Manly played a vital role in the Democratic and white supremacist victories in the election of 1898. Although, Cecelski concluded that Manly's article provided an excuse for the inevitable. In the wake of the growing black power, particularly in Wilmington, the Democrat machine had been advocating white supremacy and scheming to restore their political dominance for years. As neither the state nor the federal government stopped the rioting, the Wilmington Race Riot is the only successful violent overthrow of a local government in United States history. The newly elected Democrats immediately passed the first Jim Crow laws in North Carolina's history, reversing many of the rights that blacks had acquired since the Civil War. Following their election, 454 men signed a White Declaration of Independence stating that the framers of the Constitution never envisioned a franchised black population and declared that they would never again be ruled by African Americans.