“Wilmington’s Lie” author to take part in commemoration of 1898 massacre

“Wilmington’s Lie” author to take part in commemoration of 1898 massacre, as Wilmington marks a sad, violent chapter in its history
Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 6:13 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Throughout November, Wilmington marks a dark and violent chapter in its history.

Events are planned throughout the month to commemorate the 1898 massacre, in which a mob of white supremacists murdered Black citizens and overthrew the multi-racial government in the only successful coup d’état in American history.

Pulitzer Prize winner David Zucchino will stop in Wilmington for a conversation about the book and meet and greet.

Zucchino spent two years researching the events that led up to the murderous rampage on Nov. 10, 1898.

“I’m really glad to see Wilmington taking note of this and that it gets the attention that it deserves because it was just buried for so long and it was mischaracterized for so long, as you know, as a black race riot when actually it was a white supremacist coup,” he said. “So, I’m glad that people are digging into it and trying to understand what happened and relating it to what’s happening right now in our country.”

One of the lies in “Wilmington’s Lie” was that Wilmington’s Black leaders and citizens were planning to riot.

“That was sort of the lie in ‘Wilmington’s Lie,’ the fact that the white supremacists had a very sophisticated propaganda campaign based in the newspapers and based on stump speakers who went around,” he said. “This was during an election year and basically they spread the lie of what they called the “Black beast rapist” which was one of the lies the Black men were going out and raping white women and that was not true. There was no rape epidemic in the summer and fall of 1898. The other part of the lie was that Black men were plotting to stockpile arms and then rise up around the day of the election in November, November 8 of 1898 and rise up and kill all the white men and take over the city and rape the women and steal all the jobs. It was just preposterous.”

Instead, the white supremacists were planning their attack.

On Nov. 10, at least 60 Black men were killed and the multi-racial government was overthrown.

“The perpetrators of the coup appointed themselves as a mayor and police chief and city alderman,” Zucchino said.

As for the way the event was remembered, Zucchino said at first, it was celebrated.

“The victors usually write history,” he said. “The first generation the men who carried out the coup were proud of it and bragged about it. There were big celebrations in Wilmington and there was a huge statewide celebration of the coup and the stolen election.”

But their decedents hid what happened.

“The next generation covered it up and mischaracterized it has a black race riot and that stood for almost 100 years,” he said.

Only recently have historians and documentarians started to uncover and report the full extent of the massacre.

“This whole event was a revelation to me,” Zucchino said. “I went to college and high school in North Carolina and I never heard of this.”

Zucchino first learned of the massacre in 1998, when the state made efforts to mark the 100 year anniversary of the coup.

Zucchino looks forward to speaking to an audience in Wilmington about his book as part of the 1898 commemoration.

“It’s really important to me to see people coming out and having an interest in this event,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to meeting people and just getting their view on what this means to them. Particularly, if there are any descendants of people on either side, I would love to talk to them and get their stories.”

More information about the book can be found here.

To register for the event featuring Zucchino in Wilmington, click here.

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