Wilmington Coup

The Press Building burning during the race riots. Photo from NCpedia.On November 10, 1898, the year’s white supremacy campaign culminated with a violent political coup in Wilmington, marking the onset of the Jim Crow era of segregation in the state. Though traditionally termed a “race riot,” many have called the event a massacre.

In the days preceding the November election, a local citizen named Alfred Mooree Waddell called for the removal of the Republicans and Populists then in power in Wilmington. He proposed in a speech that the white residents, if necessary, “choke the Cape Fear with carcasses.” Adding to Wilmington’s trouble was Alex Manly’s writings in the Daily Record, a local black-owned newspaper.

Tensions came to a head on November 10, when Waddell led about 500 armed white men to the Daily Record office. In expectation of violence, Manly, along with many other black citizens had already fled the city. The mob broke into the building, a fire broke out, and the top floor of the building was consumed. The crowd swelled to nearly 2,000 as it moved across town, spreading violence and death. The number of dead is disputed.

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