Audience grows for documentary about 1898 massacre ‘Wilmington on Fire’

Audience grows for documentary about 1898 massacre ‘Wilmington on Fire’

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A documentary about Wilmington’s 1898 massacre, when an armed mob of white supremacists overthrew the government, killed black citizens and burned black-owned businesses, can now be seen on Amazon Prime Video.

Chris Everett, of Speller Street Films, released the documentary in 2015. However, in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the unrest that followed, the film is gaining more attention as more Americans study our nation’s long history with issues of race.

Members of the cast of Wilmington-filmed One Tree Hill have highlighted the documentary on social media.

The massacre is considered the only successful coup d’etat in American history. The events of 1898 became a hidden part of Wilmington’s past. Some survivors never spoke of it.

In 2000, the North Carolina General Assembly commissioned a group to develop a historical record on the riot and to assess the economic impact of the riot on the black community and on Wilmington. The report can be found here.

Everett said the long-lasting impact of 1898 is still felt in Wilmington today.

He was encouraged by scenes from recent peaceful protests in Wilmington.

“The reason the protesters are out there, they want to address some of these inequities that are still lasting and going on in Wilmington,” he said. “People, they see it every day, whether it’s the education system, whether it’s through the business sector, the job market, all over in all realms of Wilmington you see that. All that stems from the 1898 massacre. What we’re seeing now is a lot of people starting to rise up to say, ‘Enough is enough.' Not just in the African-American community but you’ve seen that spirit of 1897 come back, before the massacre happened, when you had white and black people merging together in this fusion movement and I’m starting to see that more than ever in Wilmington - a rebirth of a fusion movement of white and black people coming together.”

Everett said he will start filming Wilmington on Fire: Chapter II in the coming weeks.

This film will focus on current work to address racial inequality in Wilmington.

“I really want to focus more on Wilmington today and also talk about what folks in the community are doing to address the racial and social inequities that are existing in the city of Wilmington and their initiatives, their ongoing work, dedication and sacrifice and I think that’s a very important story,” he said.

He will launch a crowd funding campaign next week to kick start the project.

Everett is hopeful about his latest project and the future of the city when it comes to race relations.

“This new fusion movement that’s going on is amazing,” he said. “We are coming back full circle to the spirit of 1897, when Wilmington was metropolis and a Mecca for folks to thrive and hopefully, one day we will get back to that.”

Wilmington on Fire can also be seen on Vimeo On Demand and KweliTV.

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