The riot that took place in Wilmington, North Carolina, in November 1898 was not the first Southern race riot and wouldn't be the last, but it stands apart as a paramilitary operation meticulously planned by white supremacist Democrats. Steven Weisenburger, known for his in-depth studies of complex, racially charged historical events, traces the origins of the violence through the Wilmington archives. His book sheds new light on the social, economic, and cultural relations among Southern blacks and whites.
For months in advance of the horrible events, white leaders carefully managed public opinion around racial and sexual phobias and provoked white militias to shoulder arms. In a few short days, dozens of African Americans were slaughtered and hundreds more were forced to escape into the surrounding swamps. The militias' murders and thefts were calculated: prominent African Americans were ousted from elected offices and other positions of prestige, emigration was forced on those with the means to leave, and those who remained were condemned to live in fear.
Weisenburger explores how the white people of a city once regarded as a beacon for post-Reconstruction opportunity and success committed such heinous crimes and created a Jim Crow regime of segregation, disenfranchisement, and terroristic control.