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Democracy Betrayed The Wilmington Race Riot of 1 898 and Its Legacy Edited by David S. Cecelski and Timothy B. Tyson University of North Carolina Press, 1998 352 pp. Cloth $45.00, Paper $18.95 Reviewed by James W. Loewen, author ofthe bestseller Lies My Teacher ToldMe: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, published by New Press in 1995, and more recently of IJesAcross America: What OurHistoric Sites Get Wrong, published by New Press in 1999. During the Civil War, Wilmington, North Carolina, had been the Confederacy's major port. In 1898 it was still North Carolina's largest city, and in diat year occurred the notorious Wilmington "race riot." The 1898 violence was crucial to the history of Wilmington and the state; indeed, as Laura Edwards puts it in Democracy Betrayed, "What happened in Wilmington became an affirmation of white supremacy not just in that one city, but in the South and in die nation as a whole." After the end of Reconstruction, white Democrats didn't want to risk federal enforcement ofthe Fifteenth Amendment, so diey didn't disfranchise blacks outright . Republicans tried to keep their party alive but faced violence from nightriders ; white Republicans also faced ostracism from their neighbors. Many whites grew unhappy with the leadership ofDemocratic plantation owners, however, so from time to time in various states coalitions emerged between Republicans and Readjusters, Regulators, and Populists. In eastern North Carolina, Leon Prather Sr. tells us in the first chapter of Democracy Betrayed, Republicans were still strong, including in Wilmington, where African Americans were in the majority. In 1 894 Populists, mosdy white, and Republicans , mosdy black, formed a Fusion ticket. They portrayed the Democrats as tools ofbig-money interests like the railroads and won control of the state legislature . To keep blacks from power in majority black areas, in 1 876 Democrats had put die state government in charge of many city and county governmental functions. In the process, whites had also lost local power. Now both elements of the Fusion coalition united to re-establish home rule. The Fusionists also passed laws making it easier for blacks to vote. Two years later the Fusionists won every statewide race in North Carolina, increased their legislative majorities, and elected 90 southern cultures, Fall2000 : Reviews a white Republican, Daniel Russell ofWilmington, governor. In the 1897 municipal elections, die Fusion coalition elected six ofWilmington's ten aldermen and the town's mayor. Democrats fought back. Prather relates how they mounted an overt statewide white supremacy campaign in 1 898, emphasizing the alleged lust diat black males felt for white women. Vote Democratic, Charles Aycock and other party leaders urged, to keep your wives and sisters safe from black rapists. In Wilmington, Democrats planned a violent takeover. Red Shirts, the terrorist arm of the party in South Carolina, now spread to North Carolina. They menaced blacks and their white allies across the eastern part ofthe state. In August black newspaperman Alex Manly wrote an editorial opposing the call of Georgia's Rebecca Felton for whites to "lynch a thousand times a week if necessary" to protect white women from black men. Manly observed that not every liaison between black men and white women was forced. Democrats protested that he had defamed white womanhood and vowed to destroy him and his newspaper. On election day there was litde violence, but many blacks were afraid to vote; the Republican majority of 5,000 votes in Wilmington in 1 896 became a Democratic margin of 6,000 just two years later. The next morning, Democrats declared "we will no longer be ruled, and will never again be ruled, by men of African origin." They singled out Manly's "vile and slanderous" article and demanded diat die paper cease publication and Manly leave town. Manly had already fled, but die next day 2,000 whites paraded through downtown Wilmington and demolished the newspaper office. Some blacks armed diemselves, and gun batdes broke out in which whites killed at least eight blacks and drove many odiers out oftown. White groups then moved into the black sections of town, some seeking specific political leaders, others just hoping to kill anyone still there. In all...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 90-93
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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