KPFA presents part two of a special series, Race With History: Between Civil War and Civil Rights produced by Alan Lipke and Jude Thilman.
Race with History is a glimpse into a little know part of our past – a chronicle of struggle, terror and triumph, told through the works of the people who lived these events. This is a history written in fire. It is a history that continues to shape our lives today.
Part Two: Democracy’s Denial: Revolutions in Wilmington (1898 and after)
In 1898, Wilmington NC’s population consisted of about 8,000 whites and 11,000 blacks, and the elected government was a "Fusionist" coalition of white Populists and predominantly black Republicans. This proved too threatening to white supremacists. Encouraged by months of agitation against blacks, particularly the "immorality" of black men, they armed themselves and began to riot. They burned the town’s black newspaper after its editor challenged the justice of lynch law for black "rapists", they exiled the mayor and many officials, and drove thousands of black businessmen out of town. The number of African Americans killed remains unknown.
It was a pivotal moment in the history of race in America. The U.S. government looked away. In fact, those who had led the coup in Wilmington went on to play an influential role in national politics for some time to come. Justice was never done. Seventy-three years later, in 1971, Wilmingtonians were shaken by several weeks of racial violence, but it took a century for them to take a serious look at what had happened, and to start to deal with the consequences. The 1898 Centennial Foundation was created to help repair the town’s sense of community through public forums; to raise questions about what happened and why, and how it affects us today questions that all of us must address in our own lives.
The program includes the memoirs of four survivors of the coup of 1898 as read by their direct descendants. It is narrated by Pacifica’s noted journalist and radio host Verna Avery Brown.