By Anne McCrery, Virginia Newspaper Project Volunteer
On November 10, 1898, in response to the election of a biracial Fusionist government, a group of white Democrats in Wilmington, North Carolina organized a mob, attacking the city’s African American community and ultimately overthrowing the city’s government. Within a couple of days, the mob had killed between 15 to 60 African Americans, destroyed the office of the Daily Record, Wilmington’s black newspaper, and run its editor out of town.
It had also succeeded in enacting the only coup d’etat in American history. Despite the mob’s complete chaotic defiance of the law, little was done by governmental authorities to quell the violence, with President McKinley ignoring pleas for assistance. Unsurprisingly, the Richmond Planet covered the events in Wilmington extensively. With headlines such as “Horrible Butcheries at Wilmington–the Turks out done,” the Planet decried the racialized violence of the mob and lambasted the government for its failure to respond. The Richmond Planet, as an African American newspaper, offers a unique and valuable perspective on the 1898 Wilmington insurrections, as much of the mob’s animosity was directed toward Wilmington’s black newspaper, the Daily Record. Prior to the 1898 elections, significant tension had been building between the Daily Record and the white media of North Carolina, particularly the Raleigh News & Observer, over the issue of sexual relationships between black men and white women. The white media had engaged in a propogandic panic that black men were sexually predatory toward white women, a common assertion by white supremacists that had dangerous repercussions for black men, who were frequently lynched due to false accusations of sexual assault.
Alex Manly, the editor of the Daily Record, responded to these inflammatory assertions by stating that when sexual relationships between white women and black men did exist, they were consensual. … read more »