WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - New York Times Magazine writer John Sullivan is in the process of writing an long article about the history of the 1898 Wilmington race riots.
He and fellow researcher Joel Finsel meet with select students from local middle schools on Friday to teach them about the history of the city in which they live. The students involved in the process are selected from different schools by their teachers, who made selections based on students’ interest in history.
“I think some students my age need to learn all this because if you don’t know your history, like everybody says, you are going to repeat it," said Williston Middle School student Latara Walker. “I don’t think that needs to happen.”
The students are learning about The Daily Record, which served as Wilmington’s only black newspaper in the 1890s. The Daily Record is now known as the Wilmington Journal.
Sullivan and Finsel, who represent a local non-profit called the Third Person Project, believe that there are only seven original copies of The Daily Record left.
“Three copies actually showed up at the Schomburg Library, the African American history library in New York City," Sullivan said. “Three were actually at the Cape Fear Museum in their archives.”
Sullivan also spoke about the uneasiness that followed The Daily Record publishing in the community at the time.
He interacted with the students, asking them questions about homework they were given on the subject. The students offered their thoughts, asked questions and participated in conversation about the 1898 massacre for a few hours.
Stories were shared about slaves’ journeys from South to North, having to leave families behind and how some were barely able to escape with their lives.
It wasn’t all about Wilmington’s history, however. Sullivan spoke about what the environment was like for freed slaves once they made it up North. Some found good jobs but there was still segregation among the black community.
Sullivan said he’s about two weeks into his book project, and expects to finish writing in about three months.