History is an ever-important part of our society. Always appreciated in hindsight, it teaches us where we come from as a people and serves as a moral compass on the winding road to where we are going as a nation. Join the Museum of Cape Fear Historical Complex as it displays the informative exhibit of the 1898 Wilmington Race Riots. The display debuted on March 19 and closes June 16.
An intriguing look into the past, the exhibit challenges one to think about how far society has come and consider the individual choices to be made in order to secure a better tomorrow for future generations.
The inspiration for the show began after the Arts Council voted to bring the Anne Frank exhibit to Fayetteville. Inspired by her legacy and deﬁ ance against Nazi oppression, agencies were contacted to bring more events to the city in order to lead discussions about diversity. It was that need for people to connect and explore history together that led to the Wilmington Race Riot exhibit. Though many people may not know about the exhibit, The Museum of Cape Fear wanted to feature an event that is relevant to the hearts of North Carolinians as well as the rest of the country.
In 1877, during the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War, Jim Crow laws were enacted throughout the South and were not abolished until the middle of the 20th century. These laws gave privileges to white, elite planters and farmers who favored the Democratic Party and discriminated against minorities. In 1898, the Democrats needed to win the most populated city, which at the time was Wilmington. The problem, however, was that the city’s lawmakers were partly comprised of African-Americans who were educated businessmen and middle-class residents.
In order to overcome this obstacle, the Democrats planned a strategy to inﬂ ame white men who published newspaper articles calling for the lynching of black men by stating that they were slandering white women. They gained much support from men who felt it necessary to defend these “victims.”
To respond to these allegations Alex Manly, editor of the Wilmington Daily Record, refuted these claims in another article and stated that some white women actually preferred black men. Using this as fuel for their agenda, the Democratic Party staged a coup d’état, which resulted in a political riot where white supremacists illegally overthrew legitimate elected ofﬁ cials of Wilmington. There was destruction of the Wilmington Daily Record and the ousting of several of the city’s leaders. Remembered as the only successful coup d’état in American history, this riot serves as a cold reminder of our state’s past.
David Reid, administrator of the Museum of Cape Fear Historical Complex is knowledgeable of the event. He said, “It’s important, but not a well known part of North Carolina’s history that does have relevance for today.”
He believes that the exhibit serves as an invaluable example of how far we’ve come as a state and nation. Experience the Wilmington Race Riot exhibit and see how learning from the mistakes of the past can lead to a brighter future for tomorrow. For more information, call 910.486.1330.
Photo: 1898 Wilmington Race Riots exhibit at the Museum of Cape Fear Historical Complex closes on June 16.