When white supremacists overthrew a government
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When white supremacists overthrew a government

August 23, 2019


For a long time, if you went to the library
in Wilmington, North Carolina, there was one thing you weren’t allowed to research. “We were refused. We were rejected by the librarian.” “When I asked about or inquired about 1898
they wanted to know why.” “I was told that yes they had something
but they kept it under lock and key.” The story of Wilmington in 1898 still isn’t
widely known. “What happened here — on what’s now
just this empty patch of grass would radically change racial politics in North Carolina. This is the story of an American election, but
also of something we don’t usually find in American history. The violent overthrow of a democratically
elected government. In the late 1800s, Wilmington, North Carolina
was the state’s largest city. It had a majority black population, and historians
today describe it as a rarity in the post-Civil War American South. “Wilmington prior to November, 1898, was
what the New South could be at the cusp of the 20th century.” “There was an unusual degree of black prosperity.” In Wilmington there were successful black
entrepreneurs, doctors, teachers — but also black elected officials. And for a time, that was true throughout the
State. Take a look at the politicians on this poster
of the 1889 North Carolina House of Representatives. Here at the bottom — are black Republican
representatives — some from Wilmington. North Carolina also sent four black Republicans
to the US Congress between 1875 and 1899. The Democratic and Republican parties of 1898
in many ways occupied opposite parts of the political spectrum than they do today. “Most African-Americans were voting for
the Republican Party. And the Democratic Party was white voters
almost exclusively. White supremacy was the central focus of the
platform for the Democratic Party.” Republicans in North Carolina were successful
in part because of a 3rd party called the “Populist” party, made up of mostly white
farmers fed up with the tough economic times. North Carolina Populists joined up with Republicans
to form what they called the Fusion Party. And in the elections of 1894 and 1896, the
Fusion party defeated the Democrats in sweeping victories statewide. That meant North Carolina now had a government
that shared power between black and white politicians, including a newly elected Republican
governor. Together, they moved towards reforms that
would favor black Americans and working-class whites. “This was something that the Democratic
Party folks were simply not going to accept.” A multiracial government wasn’t just a disappointment
for Democrats. It was more like a humiliation. They needed a plan to take back control of
the state in the next election. So party leaders, like Furnifold Simmons,
future US Senator; Charles Aycock, future North Carolina Governor; and this man, Alfred
Moore Wadell, came up with one: To beat the Fusion Party by luring white Populist
voters away from their alliance with Black voters. Wilmington, with a large black population
and a local Fusion government in power — would be a focus of their campaign. The state Democratic state party handbook
for 1898 laid out their goal: consolidate the white vote by stoking white anger and
resentment. It said: “this is a white man’s country
and white men must control and govern it.” Their most effective tool was the media. One of North Carolina’s biggest newspapers
was a Democratic Party mouthpiece. It ran racist political cartoons throughout
1898. “Not everybody was literate in 1898. But to see a political cartoon of the type
that  ran you may not be able to read it but you know exactly what it means.” Many of the cartoons were centered on the
threat of “Negro domination”…even though the Fusion government was mostly white. They also played up another fear. “Black men threatening white women became
a theme. White men need to do all that they can to
protect white womanhood.” This was all part of North Carolina democratic
strategy, but it echoed the national racist rhetoric of the time. In one speech that Democrats printed in a
Wilmington paper — a prominent Georgia writer named Rebecca Felton said: “If it takes lynching a black man a day
to protect white womanhood ‘I say lynch”. Her speech prompted a Wilmington black man
named Alex Manly, owner of the black-run, Daily Record newspaper, to respond with
a column. He made a simple observation, that at the
time, was shocking. “That white women who had liaisons with
black men did so voluntarily and enthusiastically.” Manly wrote “Every Negro lynched is called
a “big burly, black brute”, when in fact many were sufficiently attractive for white
girls to fall in love with them.” “Manly pretty much said in a nutshell: sometimes
white women choose to be with black men.” Manly’s editorial became another tool for
Democrats. Newspapers reprinted it, called it “A Horrid
Slander”, and ran comments about it on a daily basis. It was just a few months before the election,
and white voters were angry. “By the time the election rolls around on
November 8th black voters, Republican voters had been thoroughly intimidated here.” By all accounts, the elections of 1898 were
a sham. The Democratic party had a paramilitary group
called the Red Shirts. They attacked and blocked black residents
from voting. At a rally just before the election, Alfred
Moore Waddell provoked the crowds. He said “negro office-holding ought at once,
and forever be brought to an end. Even if we have to choke the current of the
Cape Fear River with carcasses.” The votes were counted, and the Democrats
won. “Democratic candidates won every seat they
had a candidate up for election in.” But some local Fusionist politicians remained
in power, because their seats hadn’t been up for re-election like the white Republican
mayor and the board of aldermen. And and of course the election did nothing
to undo the economic power black folks held in the city. The Democrats had won the election, but their
goal of total white supremacist control remained out of reach. “And so they engineered what was essentially
a coup d’etat.” The day after the election, at a gathering
for white men in Wilmington, the Democrats unveiled a document they called the “White
Declaration of Independence.” It contained an ultimatum. Cynthia Brown, whose descendants were in Wilmington
back in 1898, is a historian at her church, where there’s a preserved copy of the declaration
from the next day’s newspaper. “We will no longer be ruled and will never
again be ruled by men of African origin.” They would strip black men of voting rights. They would give “white men a large part
of the employment heretofore given to” black men. And as for Alex Manly… “We demand that he leave this City forever
within twenty-four hours.” The next morning, hundreds of white men marched to the offices of the Daily Record. Manly was gone — he had fled to save his
own life. They set the Daily Record building on fire. This is where it once stood. “Once the White leadership destroyed Alex
Manly’s printing press they destroyed one way in which the African-American community
in Wilmington could organize itself and keep itself informed.” At City Hall — the mayor and board of aldermen
were forced out. “There’s two hundred armed men in City Hall
at the time. They didn’t do it of their own free will and
as they resigned a new member selected by the Democratic Party was voted into office.” Waddell — who once threatened to fill the
Cape Fear River with black bodies — was the new mayor of Wilmington. Meanwhile, the mob had grown to about 2,000
men, and the violence spilled into the streets. In these photos, exes mark where the first
black residents were killed. “The stories are that they were dumped into
the river. And there are varying stories about how many
people were killed.” “To me, I see 40 to 60 clearly as fatalities
as a result of the violence. But I think it was higher.” Many black residents hid for days in the swamps,
and the wooded cemeteries in the city — including Cynthia’s great grandmother. And thousands of other residents fled Wilmington,
never to return. Shortly afterward, democrats printed booklets
celebrating a glorious victory…and in the newspapers, depicted black residents as the
instigators. “This image is a gross misrepresentation
of what actually happened. You know what you see are black men with guns
not white men with machine guns.” The city never regained its black majority
population. Jim Crow laws, like literacy tests and poll
taxes that prevented black people from voting were immediately enacted and Wilmington’s
spirit of black opportunity was crushed. Black political representation in the state
was over. It would be 90 years until North Carolina
elected its next black Congress member. “Wilmington did a really great job of covering
up a very dark past for a very long time.” “Over the years, the textbooks on North
Carolina’s state history have struggled to accurately describe what happened in 1898. This book from 1933 calls what happened “unfortunate
for both races.” And this one from 1978 doesn’t have that
much more detail. But they both praise Charles Aycock, one of
the perpetrators of the riot, as a man with ‘a kind heart’ and that in fact he was
one of ‘the best friends that the colored people had in the state.’ It’s a legacy that North Carolina has yet
to fully undo. The names of the perpetrators are on Wilmington’s
school buildings and city parks. But the legacy is also bigger than those names. Turn on the news, and the state’s long history
of political suppression echoes. “We turn to a strict new voter ID law in
North Carolina.” “Racially gerrymandering and a push for
new voting maps.” “The court says the Republican-led legislature
redrew Congressional districts along racial lines, violating the Constitution.” “There is a tremendous amount of intimidation
that is still felt by the black community.” “It doesn’t have to be mass mayhem and violence
in the streets.” “The strategy shifts towards designing state
laws in such a way that you could exclude blacks from voter participation.” “The subliminal pursuit of continuing
the White declaration of independence.” “And if you don’t see it for what it really
is, it can happen all over again.”

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  1. I'm so excited to share this series with you all! If you have an idea for a story that we should investigate for Missing Chapter, send it to us via this form! http://bit.ly/2RhjxMy

    And if you want some of our top tips for how associate producer Melissa Hirsch and I prep for field reported stories like this one, then check out our Video Lab extra coming Friday. You can sign up to join right here: http://bit.ly/vox-video-membership

    Cheers — Ranjani

  2. From TX, just left Wilmington NC, and it's really white and have a vibe that's very… well wht. So I came back to TX, and tell all the Mexicans, it's a great place to live. Wht people will love that, right? 😁

  3. Modern democrats and Republicans of ye olden times could hardly be described as "left" unless the term is relative

  4. Disgusting, why I'm libertarian and why all people should carry. The fact this town allowed blacks to be chased out is horrifying. I hope if anything like this happens ever again, decent people from every corner will grab weapons and defend their neighbors with their lives.

  5. Although I've been aware of the Jim Crow South and blacks being Republicans in the 1890s , I sure was not aware of this part of North Carolina History .

  6. Do any of you know about the history of Hawaii ? When I read the title of this video I thought it was going to be on Hawaii.

  7. The biggest myth is that parties now occupy opposite sides of the line. More over liberals have no way to hide the racism that their party holds ownership so let's just lie, demonize the Republicans. It's a complete myth to think some huge confusion or complete 180 happened to cause polar swaps of ideology. Dont rewrite history

  8. Racism doesn´t have a specific colour or toe a particular party line, it is defined by the words and actions of the individual or group of individuals in any given moment. Bigotry is born out of fear and ignorance and should never be accepted as normal behavior. Human survival will ultimately depend on our ability to embrace diversity, and regard it as the cure rather than the illness.

  9. Im pretty sure even today the Democratic party PREFERS black people to stay IMPOVERISHED and on SOCIAL AID, rather then being developed and self sufficient.
    Dems make out black people as some subhuman group that needs to be benefitted and protected at all times, they treat blacks like children that have to shut up and conform to black victim identity and that dont know any better.

  10. The sad and disturbing truth is that America will always and forever be a white nation that incites racial hatred and violence to the minorities.

  11. It's time for another round of everyones favorite game: "Something bad was done to a minority group several decades ago, in specific area, by specific people, thus proving that all of America is racist today!"

  12. A historical novel of this time is The Marrow Of Tradition. Written by Charles W. Chestnut and published in 1901.

  13. The United states was a white supremacist country all the way until the 1960's, remember Rosa Parks had to sit at the back of the bus.

  14. The problem isn't white supremacy, it the white race in. Just look at their behavior. They are a predatorial species. The seek to devour all they see. Check their track record.

  15. It's never been about conservatives and liberals so much as authoritarians and collectivists. The collectivist desires power through cooperation. The authoritarian desires power through force.

  16. Democrats are still doing the same tricks these days – only Antifa aren't as lively as the red shirts – but they're still warping the narrative to distort the truth of things occurring in the country

  17. Democrats destroyed Black Wall St. they still do by bringing all the Hispanics that they can to get rid of their black problem

  18. I am not saying this to in any way discredit this video, in fact I think it is an important example of the fact that the information we receive can act as an agent for tunnel vision and ignorance. However at 7:23, Cynthia Brown is a descendant, her family that preceded her were her ascendants. Just a picky grammar thing but I don’t want some fool to come in here and try to discredit y’all work with picky nonsense. I absolutely love this video. Thank you for educating me!

  19. It’s time for revolution again… but this time for different reasons. The power structure and lying from our government has went too far

  20. I wonder how many black politicians there are in China or India etc….None… Are these non-white countries racist supremacists? This is just sensationalism.

  21. Is a pity, that the majority of US people don't understand understand that is exactly what happens now a days.
    With the DNC rigging obscure rules on polls, the super-delegates power on parties , etc…
    US is a 'dictatorial capitalocracy', in the hands of 1% of rich ppl. and corporations..
    And in a country where everything related to power is for sale: From Senate to sheriffs offices, to the President sit, etc…
    (why do you think US only have 2 parties in permanent rotation?…And no social laws at all: No free studies, no universal health care, etc…)

  22. In short, the Democratic Party has always been the EVIL party that divide this great nation.

    Finally, VOX featured something impartial.

  23. Mehhhh…..probably some truth in this tale, but some of it is obviously not true. A mob of "white men with machine guns"? Not in 1898.

  24. The types of people who did this still live today, but now we call them mass shooters. They fortunately are forced to act alone most of time.

  25. "It was bad for both races". Where have I heard that before? After Charlottesville the racist in chief said something similar.

  26. Thank you for sharing this, people need to be informed in order to stand up and fight for equality for all people

  27. When evil uses democracy as a tool, the idea of freedom of choice is an illusion. Fear always leads to madness. There is much fear in this great nation I live in now.

  28. This video in a nutshell:

    White racists see Black people prospering in every capacity, said White racists cannot stand for such defiance, so Whites racists do everything in their power to stop the Black population from prospering.

    Throughout American history, they tell Black people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, stop asking for handouts, and work for the things, which you want? Yet, whenever Black people are minding their own business and thriving, these racists impede by using laws to intrude.

  29. It’s so refreshing to know we all have an equal shot at pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps to realize the American Dream.

  30. Isn't the irony that they (white supremacists) purport themselves to be supreme above other races but have to resort to cheating, violence and lying to gain anything. Thank you for telling this story.

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