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Garden of Eden and the origins of 'Man'
"The Garden of Eden may or may not be in Africa, but the origins of my humanity began in Africa".
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A Beulah Project Publication
Was the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898
Over one hundred years ago, November 10, 1898, a terribly bloody and tragic event took place in the typically serene and a calm coastal city of Wilmington, N.C. This highly significant incident, universally called the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898, seemed to have escaped most history books. It began when a group of angry, heavily armed white men went into the black section of the city, burned buildings, injured 25 people and killed at least 11, maybe 250 unarmed black men. This action also led to the fleeing of thousands of black citizens from the area. Some, members of a well-off and highly visible upper-middle class, never returned.
The tragedy was largely precipitated by politics, specifically the local integrated duly-elected Republican Populist (Fusionist) city government which included four black aldermen, six white aldermen and a Northern-born mayor. The armed white men were Democrats, who participated in the only coup de tat (French for violent overthrow over an existing government) to have occurred in America. Their leader, Alfred M. Waddell, a white-haired former Confederate colonel, became mayor, and his closest associates, the new alderman. Days before the incident, he had given a fiery speech in which he stated that no white person could live under “the rule of an
ignorant African population.” He added that the situation had to change “even if we have to choke the current of the Cape Fear River with Negro carcasses.”
Mob burns and destroys Love and Charity Hall, the temporary location for Alex Manly's Daily Record.
Photo courtesy Wilmington Public Library, Wilmington, N.C.
"The stench (of dead bodies)
was so overwhelming, a steady stream of buzzards circled the city for weeks following the event."
Legend has it that the Cape Fear River turned red with blood that day and some folks say that on a misty, foggy day, you can hear the screaming spirits of the people who died that chilly November day. Some even say there were dead bodies floating in the river and that the stench was so overwhelming, a steady stream of buzzards circled the city for weeks following the event.
There is no question that Waddell, whose autobiography, Some Memories of My life (1908) deals with his role in what he deemed a necessary corrective act, was the head instigator, the local lightning rod, who caused the men to take matters into their own hands. But they were not acting on their own. Waddell and his followers were dupes and pawns in a planned conspiracy led and devised by rich whites who were in control of the lower Cape Fear region before the Civil War.
The group of rich whites known as the Secret Nine or The Committee of Nine, was incensed that they had lost influence and power after the South’s defeat and had met regularly since the South’s defeat and had met regularly since the South’s surrender at Appomattox, Virginia in April 1865, to develop strategy to bring back the days of the noble ante-bellum South. The fact that by the 1890’s blacks and Northern whites had taken over their homeland simply added to the urgency of what they believed was an unthinkable and dire situation; The Secret Nine was composed of the local gentry who most certainly did not associate with middle class and the poor whites of the Waddell group. In fact, they were not participants. Most of the Secret Nine stayed out of sight that day.
The Secret Nine consisted of big-time internationally-connected, large landowners: Hugh McRae, J. Allen Taylor, Hardy L. Fennell, W.A. Johnson, L.B. Sasser, William Gilchrist, P.B. Manning, E.S. Lathrop and Walter S. Parsley. They were descendents of the original English and Scottish settlers, who since the early 1700’s, had helped to make the port city and the Lower Cape Fear region a bustling, vibrant economic, political and social center. By the eve of the beginning of the Civil War in the fall of 1860, Wilmington served as a very important port of entry for the war materials, including ammunition, medicine, food and liquor. It was known a s busy and festive place, where the rebel sailors and soldiers frequented many downtown bars and the red light district. It was the home of the famed “blockade runners,” vessels that were known to out race and out trick the Union blockade. There were few men who knew how to navigate the dangerous Cape Fear and they all lived in the Wilmington area.
The Garden of Eden may or may not be in Africa, but the origins of my humanity began in Africa.
The two concepts of our beginnings - one of religion and the other of science - may or may not be linked by men and women of these fields, but when I can think upon modern books of the sacred and the secular and can unite these concepts in my heart and mind, I can feel another layer, a deeper connection joined in my soul and universe.
I had long wondered where I came from, my purpose and meaning in life, hearing of Adam and Eve as a child, yet hearing of Darwinism as a young adult. And I did not realize these life questions - from where did 'man' kind come and to where was 'man' kind going - lay unanswered in my psyche throughout the following years, when beginning in 1985, I was compelled to community service by widespread images of the Ethiopian famine, and haunted by images of church and school.
In 1988, I did not know why the dreams became more frightening and frequent when I arrived in New Haven, a city intertwined with the Yale community. After insomnia by night and loss of concentration by day, I sought out mainstream resources - Family counseling, self-help books by John Bradshaw and Laura Davis, Yale Child Study Center early childhood development and psychology courses, and returning to my Christian faith. I uncovered incest in my past I learned how children's unresolved emotional developmental needs struggle to be resolved in adulthood and how unresolved generational dysfunction is passed down from one generation to the next.
Yet still the dreams continued, pushing me to seek out other different, newer resources. When the last most frightening dream at the end of last year - of thousands fleeing from a place that used to be calm, my place of learning, my university, a place both ancient and new - spurred me to leave my daytime job, I knew that I had exhausted all the mainstream sources I could.
I turned elsewhere: blackPRINT Heritage Gallery, The Maat World History Study Group and Yale courses in Anthropology. I did not know what I would find, only that I must trust some inner intutive voice and always asking God for guidance. Soon, my
basic life questions were being answered. There on the cover of the Yale anthropology text "The Human Career: Human Biological and Cultural Origins" and in the African-American reference book "Historical and Cultural Atlas of African Americans" I saw Australopithecine fossil sites of earliest hominids, the beginnings of humanity in equatorial east Africa - Hadar, Ethiopia; Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania; and Lake Turkana, Kenya. In the March 1994 issue oftime magazine I saw Homo erectus Homo Sapiens migrating to other continents with the Out of Africa theory. In the Maat African World History Study Group I relearned that the Nile River flowed down-stream from south to north. In the "African Origins of Biological Psychiatry," I saw references to 19th-century scholar Albert Churchward's suggestion that Homo erectus may have been the pygmy, black diminutive Twa people, earliest tribe of African man. At a reception for a 300-foot mural, The Awakening, African American artist Nelson Ford, chronicling humanity's evolution and migration from out of Africa and Africa's contribution to foundations of art, history, literature, astronomy, medicine, religion, architecture, philosophy; I also heard of the four rivers in the Garden of Eden, two of which flow through Africa.
In "The New International Version of the Bible," Genesis 2:10-14, I saw four rivers flowing through the Garden, the first Pishon, winding through the land of Havilah where there is gold and and aromatic resin and onyx. The second is Gihon; winding through the entire land of Cush, and the third and fourth rivers are the Tigris and Euphrates. In Gen. 10:7 and "Original African Heritage Study Bible," p. 1895, I saw Havilah as descended from Cush (Ethiopia). In Drusilla Dunjee Houston's "Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empire,"
Stephanus Byzantium of antiquity wrote of Ethiopia as the first established country on earth and the Ethiopian were the first to set up the worship of gods and to establish laws." "New York Times Atlas New Family Edition," I saw the Blue Nile and the White Nile winding through the Sudan, near the Ethiopian plateau, and the Gulf of Aden along the northern coast of Somalia.
And with theses four rivers, two of which ran through the ancient lands of Cush, and two that ran through Mesopotamia, I began to see an unresolved issue from antiquity; humanity leaving the Garden seeking knowledge of what it is to be like God and, yet needing the wisdom to know good from evil. I began to see the unresolved issues of our ancestors passed down from generation to generation and see world affairs still gripping our attention: Cush is the bedrock of the Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia - homelands from the core of our humanity, ravaged by famine- and Mesopotamia is Iraq, the land threatened by war over 'scarce' resources ...here as we move to the Third Millenium.
Brothers and Sisters can you see it? Humanity, leaving from the heart of Africa in search of knowledge, power to understand this earth, learning science and technology, knowing good and evil yet not exercising the wisdom of God? Humanity's unresolved issues passed down from one generation to the next? Early man and woman - Homo erectus, Homo Sapiens, pygmy aboriginals or Twa people, so like naive Adam and Eve leaving the animal instinctual bliss of Paradise - beginning to populate the continents, and later, century upon century, not knowing from the place from whence they came, but still searching, warring with each other, thinking each tribe, each group, each nation, each race is so differerent from one another? Yet only in this century finally being able to create the ability to see his beginning in science from the skies and in fossils from the grounds, and yet still creating technology to pollute land, sky, and earth and weapons to obliterate cities?
I came to see that I needed a return to my own church and school, that my education and spirituality needed to go much deeper, that some god-force was pushing me to resolve these unanswered chidlhood questions of my ancestors, deep within my heart and mind: Who am I, that God gave me life? And who are we that God gave us life? What did he/she intend for us?
And so, as I think about my ancestors around the globe, I convey this message on behalf of their hopes and wishes for we their descendents and our descendents beyond: When we can join the sacred and the secular, when we can truly use the wisdom of good over evil to heal ourselves around the world from the shame of departing Eden, having pursued knowledge bringing us closer to God and to one another from distant ends of the earth and from near in inner cities and suburbs, to resolve our issues in peace and in love and heal this earth, it will be time to truly know and accept what it is to be God.
But after the Union forces captured Charleston and Savannah, it was not long before Wilmington fell in February of 1865. Wilmington was the last hope and was the final confederate post to be defeated in what the South called the War Between the States. Once Wilmington fell, the Confederate war effort was finished. Two months later, the Rebels gave up their fight at Appomattox. Some have argued that the war never really ended for the long-time Wilmington residents and that in a real sense, some of its white citizens are still fighting the Civil War. It is the same defiant Rebel spirit coupled with a strong sense of Southern loss of their way of life that has been prevalent in the port city since the end of the war. So much so, that by the 1890’s as Yale historian Glenda Gilmore put it, Wilmington had become the storm center of the white supremacy movement in America.
By the 1890’s, republicans (black and white) were able to join hands with the newly conceived Populist Party and win elections. In fact, the state’s governor and United States senator were both Fusionists. The eminent historian John Hope Franklin wrote in his classic From Slavery to Freedom: “In 1894 such a combination
Riot Instigator Alfred Moore Waddell 1834-1912
“The crisis on the Korean peninsula may come as a rude awakening to the Pentagon, where an infatuation with low-tech counterinsurgency operations is all the rage. The fixation on Afghanistan and Iraq has allowed our air and naval forces to atrophy, and our enemies may see opportunity in that.
“In deterring North Korea and other adversaries, there is little use for the nation-building skills that have so diffused the military's attention away from traditional war-fighting capabilities and skills.
“If it comes to a fight in Korea, the U.S. military is going to have to rapidly adjust its mindset.”
Charlie Dunlap Jr.
Visiting professor of law
Duke University Law School.
Dunlap specializes in warfare policy and strategy, cyber-warfare, military commissions, counterinsurgency, nuclear issues and air power; associate director of Duke's Center on Law, Ethics and National Security; former deputy judge advocate general of the U.S. Air Force; retired from military in June 2010 as a major general.
Korean Crisis ‘A Rude Awakening to the Pentagon,’ Expert Says
Holiday Stress Due to Unreasonable Expectations, Says Duke Expert
“Stress takes two distinct forms before and during the holidays.
The most common form is the
stress that accompanies trying to prepare everything for a ‘perfect’ holiday -- decorating, shopping, cooking, wrapping presents, etc.
The predominant response to this pressure is anxiety -– feeling overwhelmed, tense, experiencing sleep problems, and irritability.
“The second stressful scenario
occurs for people who find
themselves alone or lonely during
the holidays. There is a special sadness that often accompanies being alone at the holidays, when others seem to have houses full of relatives and the mass media intimates that every family is like
the Waltons. The dominant
response for these folks is depression.
“After the holidays, many people experience a significant letdown because their holiday experience
did not meet their expectations.
The same people who were
extending themselves beyond reasonable limits to create the
perfect holiday are now
discouraged because they feel
that their efforts stopped short of perfection.
“All of this is unnecessary suffering. But many -- maybe most -- of us
have unrealistic expectations for ourselves and for others during the holidays.”
Professor, Duke University Department of Sociology
seized control of the North Carolina legislature. Immediately, the Democratic machinery was dismantled and voting was made easier, so that more Negroes could vote. Negro office holding soon became common in the eastern Black belt of the state. The fusion legislature of 1895 named 300 Negro magistrates. Many counties had Negro deputy sheriffs, Wilmington had fourteen Negro police, and New Bern had both Negro policeman and alderman. One prominent Negro, James H Young was made fertilizer inspector and director of the state asylum for the blind; and another, John C. Dancy, was appointed collector of the port of Wilmington.”
By October 1897, the city of Wilmington (population, 1890 census: 10,089 whites and 13,937 blacks) was completely governed by Fusionists. Besides the integrated board of Alderman, other black officeholders included: Charles Norwood, the Hanover County treasurer; Henry Hall, assistant sheriff; Han Howard, city jailer; John Taylor, customs bookkeeper and David Jacobs, county coroner.
Wilmington’s Democrats resented these nine black officeholders. They contended that the city’s black population was becoming “insolent” and “impudent.” One Democrat wrote: “Conditions in Wilmington were becoming unbearable. It had become most uncomfortable for white women and girls to appear on the streets, as some of them had been elbowed off the sidewalks by colored women. Many colored men were insolent, because political developments had given them the erroneous idea of their position of public affairs. Their white leaders had misguided them while making suit their own selfish ends.”
In January of 1898, the Democrats prepared “quietly” but “effectively” to overthrow the fusion government. The Secret Nine met at the home of Hugh McRae to map strategy. The city was divided into sections and men were placed in charge of each area. The whites also armed themselves with a Gatling Gun, repeating shot guns, rifles, and pistols. Author Harry Hayden, the official historian for the white Democrats, in his The Story of the Wilmington Rebellion (1936) wrote that one of the Secret Nine boasted: “I doubted if there was a community in the United States with more weapons per capita as here in Wilmington.” The group also made sure that the blacks were not armed by not allowing any shipments of guns to the black citizens in town.
The white Democrats were convinced that they had to recover their government for economic reasons too. They had become frustrated with the number of blacks with higher paying jobs. They agreed that this practice was retarding the city’s growth. Again from Harry Hayden’s The Story of the Wilmington Rebellion: “Negroes were given preference in the matter of
John C. Dancy, Collector of Customs at Wilmington
employment for most of the town’s artisan’s were Negroes, and numerous white families in the city faced bitter want because their providers could get little work as brick masons, carpenters, mechanics, and this economic condition was aggravated considerably by the influx of many Negroes, and Wilmington was really becoming a Mecca for Negroes and a city of Lost Opportunities for the working class whites.” Wilmington had a substantial black business and professional community. The white Democrats complained of the stiff competition four black lawyers (Armond W. Scott, LA. Henderson, William A Moore and L.P White) gave their white counterparts.
The Democrats’ primary objection, however, was more than for political or economic reasons. They were enraged by the social implications that the city government brought along with it. One white Democrat told Hayden that: “The Negroes became more and more intoxicated with their newly acquired freedom. Instead of enjoying their rights privately, many of them insisted on publicly demonstrating their foolish belief that the uncultured African was the social equal to the cultured whites.”
One cultured and apparently educated African who infuriated them most of all was the local newspaper editor Alex L. Manly. The Whites considered Manly “a smart aleck,” especially after he wrote an editorial in his Daily Record (first published on August 8, 1898) in response to Rebecca Latimer Felton’s speech about the frequency of rape and in which she advocated lynching “thousands of black men” the Atlanta Journal editorialist made the speech before the Georgia Agricultural Society at Tybee, Georgia in 1896. Following is the most controversial part of the near white Manly’s editorial: “We suggest that the whites guard their women more closely as Mrs. Felton says, thus giving no opportunity for the human fiend, be he white or black. You leave your goods out of doors and then complain because they are taken away. Poor white men are careless in the matter of protecting their women, especially on farms. They are careless of their conduct toward them and our experience among poor white people in the country teaches us that the women of that race are not any more particular in the matter of clandestine meetings with colored men, than are white men with colored women. Meetings of this kind go on for some time until the women’s infatuation of the man’s boldness bring attention to them, and the man is lynched for rape. Every Negro lynched is called ‘a big burly, black brute,’ when in fact many of those who have been dealt with had white men for their father’s and not only were not ‘black ‘ and ‘burly’ but were sufficient for white girls of culture and refinement to fall in love with them as is well known to all.”
“That editorial,” declared one of the secret nine, “Is the Straw that broke Mister Nigger’s political back in the Southland.” Indeed it did. The Democratic State press (specifically the Raleigh news and Observer used it to provide whites with an excuse to fight against black and white Fusionists. Democrats used Manly’s editorial in a statewide campaign to expose the Wilmington city government. They were convinced that once Wilmington fell, then the whole state would.
The secret nine continued to hold meetings. They planned for the disturbance to begin on November 10, 1898, two days after the statewide elections. Their meetings were quite secretive because they feared being arrested. The Monday night before Election Day, the secret nine initiated a mass meeting a t the New Hanover County Courthouse. It was there that the group drew up The Declaration of White Independence, an inflammatory work that also advocated the expelling of Manly from Wilmington. Immediately after the writing of the declaration,
The Secret Nine appointed a committee of twenty-five to make sure the document’s wishes were carried out. Colonel Alfred Moore Waddell, a staunch Democrat and defeated office seeker, was made chairman and chief spokesman. Before the meeting adjourned Waddell told the crowd: “Go to the polls tomorrow and if you find the Negro out voting tell him to leave the polls and if he refuses, kill him, shoot him down in his tracks.”
The democrats were successful on Election Day, 1898. John D. Bellamy, nominee for Congress; George Roundtree and Martin S. Willard, nominees for the legislature; and Walter G. McRae, sheriff candidate, were easily elected. Still, the victory meant very little to local politics. The integrated board of alderman remained; new elections for them were not to be held until early 1899.
Late Tuesday evening, the coup almost began prematurely. A band of fifty mounted whites formed and were enroute to the Record’s office (Alex L. Manly’s newspaper) to burn it down and lynch Manly when they were detoured by one of the Secret Nine, Hugh McRae, who convinced them to wait until after the mass meeting to be held the following morning. Shortly afterwards, the committee of twenty-five held a meeting with the prominent black citizens of the community. They presented the group with the Declaration of White Independence and a list of their demands. John Dancy, a black, asked for permission to speak. He was told by Waddell that no black would be allowed to address the floor.
It was a confused and terrified group of blacks who later met at Elijah’s Lane’s barbershop. Those recorded as present were: Dr. J.H. Alston, physician; Richard Ashe, financier; John Brown: John Carroll, Caterer; John Goings, associated with the Manly press; Elijah Green, alderman elected from the fifth ward, 1897-98; H.C Green, merchant; Henry Green; James Green; Josh Green, coal and wood dealer; L.A Henderson, lawyer; Dan Howard, first jailer in Hanover County; John Holloway, clerk in the post office; John H. Howe, contractor; John T. Howe, in the legislature of 1897 from New Hanover County; David Jacobs, coroner of New Hanover County; David Jacobs, coroner of New Hanover County; David J Jones, Wheelwright; J.W Lee; the Reverend W.H. Leak, Methodist minister; Alex Mallet; Dr. T.R Mask, Physician; T.C. Miller, financier who made loans to whites and blacks; William A. Moore, Lawyer; Carter Peamon, barber and politician; Brown Reardon; Thomas Riviera, a mortician: Fred Sadgwar, financier and architect; Armond Scott, lawyer; the Reverend J.W Telfair, manager of the James Sprunt Cotton Press. R.S Pickens, magistrate; Isham Quick, a coal and wood dealer; and Robert Reardon; The group drafted a reply, written by Attorney Scott, to the Committee of twenty-five. But instead of delivering it personally, Scott decided to mail the letter. He later contended that it was unthinkable for any black to enter the white-populated district for fear of foul play.
Dr. Helen Edmonds, the late former North Carolina Central University history professor, in her pioneer work, The Negro and Fusion Politics in North Carolina, 1894-1901(1951), obtained a reputed copy of the reply from the prominent black men. This is how it reads:
“We the colored citizens to whom was referred the matter of expulsion from the community, of the persons and press of A.L. Manly, beg most respectfully to say that we are in no way responsible for nor in any way endorse the obnoxious article called forth your activities. Neither are we authorized to act for him in this matter, but willingly use our influence to have your wishes carried out.”
Very respectfully, The Committee of Colored Citizens
On November 9th, the day after the state elections, Democratic Party morning papers carried announcements calling whites to a mass meeting at eleven o’ clock that day. About 1,000 citizens gathered for a mass meeting at the courthouse. Chairman Alfred Moore Waddell read aloud the Declaration of White Independence to the delight of the crowd. “That declaration,” observed one participant, “brought forth tremendous applause from the large gathering of White men at the mass meeting. The crowd cheered this distinguished white haired and bearded Southern gentleman throughout the course of the address. The declaration was unanimously approved by the meeting, followed by a wonderful demonstration, the assemblage rising to its feet and cheering, “Right! Right! Right!” There were also cries of ‘Fumigate the city with ‘The Record’ and ‘lynch Manly.’
In addition to the declaration, the group added two important resolutions directly related to the subsequent coup.
One amendment was the following:
“It is the sense of this meeting that Mayor S.P. Wright and Chief of Police John R. Melton having demonstrated their utter incapacity to give the City decent government and keep order their continuance in office being a constant menace to the peace and welfare of this community, they ought forthwith to resign.
Thursday morning as planned, the incident began. Colonel Waddell and his followers waited an extra thirty minutes for a reply from the black leaders. When there was none, the action started. At precisely 8 a.m., about 400 armed whites marched from the armory in Wilmington Light Infantry on Market Street. They ended up on Seventh Street in front of the Record’s office. They set the building afire and commenced to attack blacks at will. Within hours, the city resembled a battleground, with the group firing on mostly defenseless blacks. Rev. J. Allen Kirk, a black eyewitness, wrote in his A statement of facts concerning the Bloody Riot in Wilmington, N.C., that: “Firing began and it seemed like a mighty battle of war time. The shrieks of children, of mothers, of wives were heard, such as caused the blood of the most inhuman person to creep. Thousands of woman, children, and men rushed to the swamps and there lay upon the earth in the cold to freeze and starve. The woods were filled with colored people. The streets were dotted with their dead bodies. A white gentleman said that he saw ten bodies lying in the undertaker’s office at one time. Some of their bodies were left lying in the streets until they were picked up the next day.”
Violence continued all throughout the day, and sporadic fighting occurred the next day. The action came to an end through the superior firepower of the group. Besides, most of the blacks that fought back were almost slain instantly. The others hid like scared rabbits in the woods. The blacks were saved from total annihilation by the local militia, the Wilmington Light Infantry. This military unit however should not be thought of as a mediator. One W.L.I member later wrote, “We have not killed enough Negroes, two or three white men were wounded and we have not gotten enough to make up for it.”
Two days after the violence, the group’s leaders took the final step of the coup. At 4 p.m., Waddell and his associates demanded that the Republican-Populist City government resign. Under the circumstances, Mayor Wright had no other option. One by one, he and his alderman relinquished their offices to the Democrats. One of the first official acts of Mayor Waddell was to send search parties of “kindly disposed white men” into the woods to retrieve terrified blacks.
The Wilmington Race Riot of November 10, 1898 was without question the most damaging affair, physically and psychologically, of the city’s racial violence prior to the twentieth century. Part of the statewide Democratic Party’s campaign to disfranchise black voters, it left a black intellectual and political vacuum because most black leaders fled the city, some never to return again. As a result, most of them lost their properties and land. For example, Attorney Armond Scott, who was given a free train ride out of town, later became a prominent judge in Washington, D.C. Most of the Committee of Colored Citizens also left Wilmington and prospered elsewhere. Thus, the riot’s aftermath humiliated and degraded the local black elite and left the black community with no one of their own race to hold in high esteem. So, as time passed, the effects of the incident eventually reduced most of the local black mentality to where it was before the Civil War; to that of the docile, passive slave. Except this was worse, because back then most black Wilmingtonians did not have anything to lose. The coup’s instigators took almost everything they possessed. They robbed them of their political power. They even erased their aspirations. Most importantly, the Democrats accomplished what they set out to do: to damage the blacks’ self-respect and to keep them in their places.” The most harmful result of the affair, however, was the mentality it gave some local whites. From that point on, they seemed convinced that violence was the best way to keep blacks at the bottom of the political, economic, and social ladder.
In 1971, seventy three years later, it would be this same mentality that would prevail when a large group of black students, frustrated after their beloved Williston High School was closed and because they were placed in two local white high schools, decided to boycott the school. When hundreds of them stayed out of school, and met at a Wilmington church, caravans of armed white men drove by their meeting place and fired at will on the building. Their leader, Oxford, North Carolina native Reverend Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. (Now Benjamin Muhammad), a well-known civil rights activist was surprised when his speeches and activities caused some local whites to take the law into their own hands.
Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. (Now Benjamin Muhammad)
Original publication date:
December 1998, UJ Magazine
Muhammad realized it later. From Michael Myerson’s Nothing Could Be Finer (1978): “I was really shocked to see people battling like that. At that point I just didn’t understand the depths of the feelings involved. I didn’t know much about the history of Wilmington. I had heard something about 1898, but I didn’t know it was deeply ingrained as it apparently was. You had some folks that actually thought that, just because the black students marched and we had some meetings, they were going to pay back the white people for 1898. And so to keep the blacks from paying them back, they were going to wipe out the black community again.”
The boycott, marches and black protest led to The Wilmington Incident of February 2-11, 1971, commonly referred to as the Wilmington Ten Incident. This week of burning, looting and racial violence left two persons dead, six injured and over $500,000 worth of property damage. The 1971 incident is noteworthy because it led to the arrest, trial, conviction, and incarceration of a group of young people who were later referred to internationally as the Wilmington Ten. The group consisted of nine black males and one white female. Their 1972 convictions for firebombing Mike’s Grocery, a white-owned business, and hindering firemen from saving the store netted them each one of the lengthiest terms in the state’s judicial history. Between them, they received over 300 years. Amnesty International declared them political prisoners and after spending four years in prison, constant protest caused the governor (James B. Hunt) to reduce their sentences. Later, an appellate court ruled they were unjustly convicted and prosecuted.
The Wilmington Ten Incident was a wake-up call to the local power brokers and shortly after it was over, suddenly there were new plants coming to Wilmington, like DuPont and General Electric, That made good jobs available to blacks and whites. The town leaders also beefed up the police force and took steps to tighten security in the surrounding areas. But because of the national and international spotlight on Wilmington as a result of the Wilmington Ten, the obvious was why? Why did Wilmington experience racial violence when the rest of the nation had already done that years before? Why were they so late?
Research about the city’s history and its racial tension led to the tragedy of 1898. The United Church of Christ’s Commission for Racial Justice, the organization the Minister Muhammad was working for at the time, published a report, Wilmington: Seeds of insurrection (1972), that clearly linked the Wilmington Ten Incident to the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898. Hence, the secret, which had been covered up for so long, was slowly seeping out. Some historians who were familiar with the 1898 incident began to make the correlation. Others disputed the connection. The ones in the middle hoped the thought or talk about 1898 would cease. Most of them were convinced that 1898 was not important and should be forgotten, after all, they thought, what happened 100 years ago is best left forgotten.
But, thank God, things do change. Durham-based historian David S. Cecelski, a Harvard-trained scholar, and Timothy Tyson, a Duke Ph.D. graduate and professor at the University of Wisconsin, recently edited a book entitled Democracy Betrayed: The Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 and it’s legacy (1998) they both convinced state officials to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the event with a symposium in October of this year at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. The event drew scholars from all over America who have studied and written about the riot of 1898. Most of them knew it was a very important watershed incident in American history. The two-day scholarly affair titled “The 1898 Wilmington Racial Violence and its Legacy” featured several informative lectures, speeches and town hall discussions. The highlights were appearances by Dr. Leon Prather, a Nashville-based historian, who wrote We Have Take A City (1984), the definitive work on the incident. Prather, a former Tennessee State University history professor and a former jazz musician, said that the event was purely based on economics and that race played a minor role. The other highlight was a keynote address by John Hope Franklin who called for a quick return of “civility” in the American society.
The symposium was successful and was attended by interested people form around the nation. It was done in association with the 1898 Centennial Foundation, a local interracial group formed to help bring some closure to the tragedy that has bred distrust and disharmony in the city for years. The foundation, created a few years before the symposium, has held several earlier events, including a candlelight vigil, and memorials. A play and a banquet were scheduled after the UNC-Wilmington affair. The foundation also plans to erect a monument to honor the victims, and a marker with Manly’s name on it created to be placed on a street in the city. There is also a Committee of Economic Development, which seeks to help the black community improve its sad shape. The Centennial Foundation is very excited about their work and is determined to heal racial tension in a sorely needed area.
So what does it all mean? Was Wilmington another Rosewood? Or was Rosewood another Wilmington? Rosewood was a similar incident that occurred in 1923 in the all-black Florida town where hundreds of blacks were killed and run out of a place they controlled and had prospered for many years. The violence started when a white woman falsely accused a black man of rape. White men armed themselves and totally destroyed the town. After the blacks were run out of town they took over the property. The story of its decimation came to light later. There was a special on CBS’s 60 Minutes, numerous articles in prominent national publications, and a movie called “Rosewood.”
The tale of Rosewood became nationally known in 1995 when the Florida State Supreme Court awarded the surviving families reparations for the loss of their ancestors land and resources. Obviously, the incident in Wilmington in 1898 was a blueprint or a master plan for future disturbances. It led to decades of white vigilantes taking matters in their own hands to put matters in their own hands to put blacks back in their places. It ushered in an era of white supremacy all over the world, From Wilmington to Rosewood to Tulsa to the partition of Africa. The leaders of the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 another Rosewood? No. It was worse. It was the prototype for all the 20th century violence that followed it. It bears close examination by all those interested in racial justice. It was very significant and serves a constant reminder that the devil and his flock of flunkies’ work relentlessly and tirelessly full–time.
Larry Reni Thomas is a native Wilmington, North Carolina. Thomas currently resides Chapel Hill, North Carolina and is the author of THE TRUE STORY BEHIND THE WILMINGTON TEN.
Step back in time with the click of a computer mouse and read about the Bijou, Wilmington's first movie theater, which opened in 1906 in a tent before moving to a permanent home in 1912.
"Going to the Show," a searchable digital archive of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, brings together thousands of artifacts about the Bijou and other movie theaters in the state -photographs, newspaper ads and articles, city maps and directories, old postcards and architectural drawings - to document and illuminate the way movie-going became one of the most important social practices of the early 20th century. It also highlights the ways that race conditioned the experience of movie-going for all North Carolinians.
American studies scholar Robert C. Allen and the University Library have been honored for their innovative work on "Going to the Show" and another digital history project that will focus on the character and identity of North Carolina towns and cities.
"Main Street, Carolina," still under development, will enable users to explore the history of North Carolina towns over the past century through maps, photographs, newspapers, architectural drawings, family papers, historical commentary, oral history interviews and more.
The team received the Roy Rosenzweig Prize for Innovation in Digital History, given by the American Historical Association and the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. The prize honors work on an innovative, freely available new media project. It also recognizes work that reflects thoughtful, critical and rigorous engagement with technology and the practice of history.
Allen is the James Logan Godfrey Distinguished Professor of American studies, history and communication studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. Both projects were developed in collaboration with the Carolina Digital Library and Archives, part of the University Library. Natasha Smith led the library project team.
In both projects, users can track the development of their communities and compare the historical downtowns of North Carolina cities with contemporary satellite and map views of the same cities.
Allen also developed a graduate seminar and undergraduate course based on the projects. Last spring, about 20 undergraduates made use of "Going to the Show" in digital projects exploring the development of downtowns across North Carolina. This fall, 13 graduate students from the School of Information and Library Science, department of city and regional planning and the School of Education are field-testing the "Main Street, Carolina" software.
The projects involved collaborations across the University and with cultural heritage organizations around the state, including the department of American studies and the School of Information and Library Science at UNC, the New Hanover County Public Library in Wilmington and the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte.
"Going to the Show" was funded by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services under the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the State Library of North Carolina. Allen's work on the project was supported by a Digital Humanities Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).
"Main Street Carolina" received the first C. Felix Harvey Award to Advance Institutional Priorities at UNC. The award funds faculty outreach projects that apply innovation of scholarly expertise in the humanities and social sciences and supports the Innovate@Carolina Roadmap, UNC's plan to help Carolina become a world leader in launching University-born ideas for the good of society. To learn more about the roadmap, visit innovate.unc.edu. The project also is supported by a Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant from the NEH.
The Rosenzweig Prize honors the work of the late Roy Rosenzweig, a digital history pioneer who developed The Sept. 11 Digital Archive, which consists of more than 150,000 e-mails, voice messages and video clips made by ordinary people around the time of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Allen, Library honored for innovation in digital history Staff Report
UNC launches master’s program in U.S. law
The School of Law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will soon offer foreign lawyers an opportunity to improve their knowledge of U.S. law and legal process through a one-year master of laws degree (LL.M.) program. Acquiescence of the American Bar Association to the program is expected in January 2011.
Michael L. Corrado, Arch T. Allen Distinguished Professor of Law, will serve as program director. The program is expected to launch in the fall of 2011 with an initial class of three to seven students and an eventual student population of 25.
"Our J.D. (juris doctor) and LL.M. students will benefit by studying together and by engaging in discussions about comparative legal issues, policies and judicial processes," said John Charles "Jack" Boger, dean and Wade Edwards Distinguished Professor of Law.
Boger supported the development of the LL.M. program as part of an ongoing effort to help train lawyers who will practice in the global economy. More than 100 U.S. law schools currently offer an LL.M., including many of the most elite public and private law schools.
"We live in a time of rapid global changes, when legal issues involving banking and investment law, environmental law, intellectual property protection, and human rights cross boundaries of geography and have far-reaching impacts," Boger said. "We need our lawyers and leaders to have a strong understanding of cross-cultural issues and comparative law."
Corrado is an ideal director, Boger added, having established himself as a leading international scholar on adversarial systems worldwide. Corrado also has recently earned a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Law at the University of Trento in northern Italy, where he will teach a seminar on U.S. criminal law while researching Italian and European approaches to criminal law issues in the spring of 2011. The LL.M. program has also been developed with the assistance of associate deans Robert Mosteller and Laura N. "Lolly" Gasaway.
Boger emphasized that the school's domestic law students and professors who work primarily within the United States will benefit from learning alongside foreign-trained lawyers and forging international connections. The program builds on the school's existing programs of international study abroad and student exchange, as well as visiting scholar programs for academics, judges and prosecutors. It will also benefit from UNC School of Law faculty expertise in U.S. and international law and other fields of global legal scholarship.
"We live in a world in which significant shifts are occurring in ownership of wealth and resources, and American attorneys must be able to compete in this new global marketplace," Boger said. "This degree program will help us to attract and develop a network of alumni worldwide, many of them leaders in their own nations, who will assist our U.S.-trained alumni establish global connections, whether they eventually practice in Charlotte, Raleigh, New York City or Seoul, Korea."
UNC School of Law has traditional strengths in corporate and commercial law, banking law, environmental law, intellectual property rights and civil rights law, which should appeal to international students. They can also study health care law, human rights, American international and comparative law, and public law and regulation.
To be eligible for the program, foreign lawyers must have earned a primary law degree from universities in their home countries. Preference will be given to foreign lawyers who have practiced law for at least two years. Admissions decisions will also be based on an applicant's prior academic excellence in their legal studies and fluency in English. For more information, visit the LLM program website.
Michael L. Corrado
Arch T. Allen Distinguished Professor of Law
Joe Harris and W. Calvin Anderson are ecstatic about their new educational workbook designed for middle and high school students. At the very least, the book attempts to prevent childhood obesity and bullying while increasing effective mentoring of student-athletes by providing relevant studies to keep students ‘ready-to-learn’ in school and eligible for core-competencies in sports. The Student Empowerment program Stars That Never Shine Educational Workbook is a companion to Joe Harris’ autobiography entitled: The Stars That Never Shine published in 2008.
Harris is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology and a former NFL player. Anderson is a licensed educator and instructional designer with an undergraduate degree from Boston College and a Master of Education Administration and Supervision from Mercy College.
Harris and Anderson believe the same principles that helped Joe Harris become a successful student and professional athlete can help a new generation of student-athletes by providing face-to-face
Former Super Bowl Player and K-20 Educator Create New Workbook to Support a New Generation
of Student-Athletes Staff
and workbook support to increase and improve student scholarship, health, obesity awareness, character education and sportsmanship. Additionally, the workbook encourages students to become financially literate. “Growing up, I worked on my grandfather’s farm in North Carolina. We didn’t have much money but I was able to practice sports, work odd jobs to help my family, and hold-fast to my dreams,” Harris said.
Harris eventually earned a scholarship to play college football at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. He was drafted into the NFL and eventually played in the Super Bowl. “All of my experiences are a diary of sorts to help today’s youth with more than just vocabulary words and mental toughness. I give them the secrets of my success and tips for exercise, health and nutrition from middles school through college that are timeless, said Harris.
A 16-year veteran of a metro Atlanta school system, W. Pearson Cotton says, “I am greatly aware of the need for this type of program. With Mr. Harris’ experience as a former professional athete, the Stars that Never Shine Workbook focuses on the lessons learned in becoming a professional athlete. Those same lessons can be transferred to any profession as keys to becoming a successful individual regardless of the profession. I plan to use the Stars That Never Shine Workbook to introduce the growing need and to create an environment where education is again a valued commodity, not just for successful test scores but for the salvation of our youth. The exposure to these valuable personal skills at a young age will greatly enhance young students’ ability to be successful and compete in this very competitive global community,” said Cotton.
“My goal was to create a practical sports/educational tool to make certain that aspiring students are not “anonymous” to parents, coaches, mentors and community leaders. We know more about their ideas, whole language reading and writing habits and we increase our home and community effectiveness with ‘more-love-for-them’ helping parents and mentors to engage youth athletes at all levels. Our workbook helps all children.” Those who are ahead academically can tutor others; those not meeting reading and writing expectation can practice and find several mentors. The Student Empowerment (SEP) study not only encourages African American males not to drop out of school, but helps all student/athletes to: practice responding to literature like in their English class and on mandated tests. Mentored learners are given assignments to search the Internet for information about current football players,” Anderson said.
Additional information is provided at www.gentlejoe.com. The book, the Stars That Never Shine is a staple at the Georgia Tech Book Store in Atlanta. Joe and Calvin are adapting the workbook to support students in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, DC, Connecticut, Massachusetts and California. Look for the educational workbook and let a student/athlete, parent, coach, teacher or mentor try it out with a young person that you know is aspiring for greatness in sports.
Recently, I came across a surprising talk by Robert E. Fullilove, a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and advisor to the National Academy of Science, the National Institutes of Health, and the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
In his keynote address in 2009 to the 30th annual Minority Health Conference at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dr. Fullilove argued that health care promotion or disease prevention may not be the appropriate first step in creating effective interventions.
He suggested that a return to the roots of old-fashioned community organizing is the most effective approach to disease prevention. As a student of history, I concur.
Consider this: The civil rights movement actually started in 1688, with the Germantown (Pennsylvania) Quaker Petition against Slavery—the first protest of slavery made by a religious body in the American colonies.
Following the petition there were three more major milestones:
- The abolitionist movement, which helped to end slavery
- The dismantling of the Jim Crow laws, which prepared the ground for the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision and the eventual desegregation of public schools
- The work of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Some would argue that Reverend King led the movement that brought about the inclusion of African Americans into the American fabric. Others would say he only played a part. Either way, according to Fullilove, understanding the long history of community activism can give us direction to handle health issues in the present.
Understanding and applying the practices and principles of community mobilization can empower communities who now desperately need that strength. Community organizers walking different paths came together time and again over the centuries to seek equality for African Americans. I believe we can be just as effective as the old, unforgotten soldiers of our distant past, and build on the social capital they bequeathed to us.
Noah Powell received his Bachelor of Arts degree in history from North Carolina Central University in 1984. He is a founding member of the LinCS 2 Durham Collaborative Council and also serves on the advisory council and the World AIDS Day committee of the Partnership for a Healthy Durham.
Point of View
by Noah Powell
For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf was truly one of the seminal works influencing my journey into womanhood.The author of the choreopoem/play was Ntozake Shange. Her name was pronounced N-toe-sa-key Shan-gay, and this was the first lesson, to learn to say her name correctly with the honor it deserved. In the mid-seventies, Ms. Shange’s literary work woke us up by starkly, truthfully and bravely exposing the pain and triumphs of Black women through mini-tales of passion, sorrow and self-revelation.
Black women saw themselves as they had never been shared before. As a young and
For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide
When the Rainbow is Enuf…
serious actor, For Colored Girls became a part of my performing repertoire. It became a ‘staple’, my answer to all the soliloquies and monologues that lacked my spirit, my identity, my life. I performed with other women of color who came forward to personify the pained and bold ladies of color. We cried the lady in Red and spat out the Lady in Blue. We wore the colors and breathed the characters lives…it was something all our own. Something our reality created – the good, the bad, the ugly. We explored empathetic spaces and places of Colored Girls and we grew up.
When I heard that Tyler Perry was going to bring the choreopoem to life…my heart fluttered and skipped a beat. The work of Ntozake Shange on the screen - the ladies in Purple, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Red, Green and Brown…all the colors of the emotional rainbow? Thirty-five years later, my story, our stories told from the mouths of modern day film icons: Janet, Loretta, Thandie, Whoopi and the rest of the rainbow! Truly there must be a God and we love Her! I decided to see the film with a few close friends. We cried, we cursed, we laughed, and we sighed. We left the theater exhausted but enlivened!
I could not wait to put my thoughts to paper. I travelled back to distant times, reliving the power of this piece on the stage. To understand the film, it would be helpful to have an understanding of how the original piece was written. It was formatted as a grouping of poems that read like poetic monologues. Every piece introduces different voices coming forth to poetically share their “heart” challenges. The language is shared in dialectic authenticity with words, rhythms, phrases that accurately represent the speaker’s reality. To read it is to read words that are moving to a medley of love songs…This was the challenge for Tyler Perry to bring to the screen!
The film moved us from one poem to the next in a complex tapestry of lives being interwoven as a result of close proximity and circumstance. Each woman unfolded her “heart problem” bringing forth each choreopoem as a personal narrative. The poems were so tightly woven and the characters so richly developed…if you had not read the poems you would hardly be able to tell when a poem was being recited versus dialogue that is naturally flowing during the course of events. I was consistently pleased and sometimes surprised to hear a poetic piece burst forth out of a scenario dramatically unfolding. It was very smoothly and almost seamlessly delivered. Remember, the original piece written on the heels of Vietnam, the Civil Rights Movement, and Roe versus Wade, the Women’s Movement, was a time when women’s issues were surging to the forefront of social reality. And yes, the Black male appears to be “thrown under the bus” once again, but a closer examination will have the viewer seeing through the “male bashing” to a connection between the Black males and females that “bears all things, believes all things and hopes all things”…even in the face of generational, social and personal complexities.
“Without any assistance or guidance from you, I have loved you assiduously for 8 months, two weeks and a day…” Lady in Red
“TOUSSAINT L’OUVERTURE became my secret lover at the age of 8…” Lady in Brown
“Somebody almost walked off with all of my stuff…” Lady in Green
“One thing I don’t need is anymore apologies….” Lady in Blue
This incredible film could not have happened with just a brilliant screen adaptation, but the giftedly chosen cast, breathed life into every intense, raw, and pain-filled scene. The tears, the pain, the hope, the resilience, the depth of love and sacrifice emanated from each character sharing some of the finest film work to date. The depth of the film captured my heart. I fell in love once again and once again became the Colored Girls I saw projected on the screen through the tales of human love. I highly suggest you see the film and judge for yourself. This just may be the one film you do not want to miss – the brilliance of a Color Purple for our present times. Yes, “someone almost walked off with all of our stuff”, but Tyler Perry and the brilliant cast of For Colored Girls, brought it back!
P.S. Perkins is the founder & Chief Executive Officer of Human Communication Institute, LLC, www.hci-global.com She is the author of, The Art and Science of Communication: Tools for Effective Communication in the Workplace, John Wiley & Sons. Perkins' film review is a reprint from African American Baby Boomers e-magazine, www.aaboomers.com
More than a Movie…a Reawakening!
The holiday season has always been a weird and wonderful time for me. I thoroughly enjoy the feast like atmosphere on Thanksgiving Day, and the gifts both large and small I receive on Christmas always leave me feeling a bit more appreciated than I did before.
I also enjoy giving. Perhaps the greatest thrill for me, as it is for most parents, is the look on my children’s faces when they hastily rip open their presents on Christmas Day.
Still the inclination to give more and share more during the holiday season that at any other time of the year strikes me as strange.
“There are 365 days in a year, Christmas is just one day,” my mother would always say.
Her reasons for providing such a blunt assessment probably had to do with her inability to buy us all the things she would’ve liked, and maybe even more to do with what she perceived as both a weird and wonderful ritual of sharing and giving that takes place at the very end of the year.
It occurred to me recently that without even realizing it, I have been placing more value in that year-end ritual than I probably should.
Sure, I try not to make such a big fuss about Christmas, but it’s difficult when everyone around you is. And with three children bombarding you with their wish lists, Christmas becomes an even bigger deal.
A wierd and wonderful time of year
by Kelvin De'Marcus Allen
So, despite my personal inclination to forgo indulging in the trappings of Christmas, year after year, I do as those around me do and reserve most of my sharing and giving until the very end of the year.
Well, next year is going to be different – that’s right, next year! It’s too late to do anything about this year. The holiday season is in full swing any random acts of kindness I display or charity I carry out will undoubtedly be construed as being performed in the spirit of Christmas.
What has made me think a little differently this year about how I celebrate Christmas is a disturbing story I heard recently of two middle-school students, a brother and a sister, who had been living in a run-down rental house with no running water or electricity for more than a year.
To make matters worse, the pair had the additional burden of caring for their mother, who is dying of AIDS.
The story has it that until very recently, no one even knew the pair had been mostly living with very little food and no adult supervision to speak of. Fortunately, over the last few months, a number of good Samaritans have come forward with all kinds of support. The children are now living in a hotel, and their mother is still very ill, but help has arrived and at least now they have a chance.
I applaud the effort that is part into preparing a holiday meal for those who would otherwise go hungry or providing a neatly wrapped gift for a needy child, but I’m sure many others are like that family whose needs go beyond those customary gestures. Will we remember them after the holiday lights dim and the decorations are stowed away.
I’ve been blessed over the years to share in thanks and giving with family and friends during the holiday season, and I intend to continue doing so. But I’m going to try much harder to remember all the good I can do for others – both before and after Christmas.