cover image Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy

Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy

David Zucchino. Atlantic Monthly, $28 (436p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2838-6

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Zucchino (Thunder Run) delivers a searing chronicle of the November 1898 white supremacist uprising in Wilmington, N.C., that overthrew the municipal government. At the time, Zucchino notes, Wilmington’s “thriving population of black professionals” made it, according to one contemporary source, “the freest town for a negro in the country.” Determined to end “Negro rule,” a cabal of white politicians and newspapermen launched a statewide campaign of voter suppression, intimidation, and ballot stuffing that flipped control of North Carolina’s state legislature from a Republican-Populist alliance to Democrats in the 1898 elections. The next day, the white supremacist leader Col. Alfred Waddell read a “White Declaration of Independence” in the Wilmington courthouse; among its seven resolutions was a demand for black newspaper owner Alexander Manly to be banished from the city for publishing an editorial that, Zucchino writes, “upended the core white conviction that any sex act between a black man and a white woman could only be rape.” When Waddell falsely claimed that Wilmington’s black leaders didn’t deliver their written response to the demands by 7:30 the next morning, as was required, nearly 2,000 armed white men burned down Manly’s newspaper offices, killed an estimated 60 African-Americans, and installed Waddell as mayor. Drawing on a wealth of primary sources, Zucchino paints a disturbing portrait of the massacre and how it was covered up by being described as a “race riot” sparked by African-Americans. This masterful account reveals a shameful chapter in American history. [em]Agent: Philippa Brophy, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Jan.) [/em]