The event in Wilmington, North Carolina, on November 10th, 1898, has been described as a Coup d'etat, massacre, and race riot. For the purposes of this guide, the term massacre will be used.
In the 1890s, the Republicans held the majority of the North Carolina General Assembly. Resentful Democrats would regain control of the NC General Assembly on November 8th, 1898. Returning the white men of state to what they thought to be their respective place in society. The election of 1898 was thought to have solved North Carolina's "negro question." Effectively beginning a movement to disenfranchise Black North Carolinians, especially in areas like Wilmington, where there were rumors of "Negro majorities."
Alex Manly, the publisher of the Black newspaper, the Wilmington Record, had a history of condemning white Wilmingtonians for the conditions of Black people in New Hanover County. Thus earning him some enemies among white conservatives. In 1898, a white Georgia woman called for protecting white women from "negro rapists." Manly wrote a response article pointing out "that white women were not any more particular in the matter of clandestine meetings with Negro men than white men with Negro women." This article's response was used as ammunition for the necessity of a white conservative Democratic takeover.
A result of the election of 1898 was the demand for Manly to leave the city and for Black officeholders to step down and leave the city. The secret nine, a white citizens' organization, intended to stop the believed "negro domination" they thought would result from the election. The white citizens' organization created a list of demands for prominent Black citizens in Wilmington to leave by 7:30 am November 10th, for the Wilmington Record and Alex Manly to cease, and that they respond to the letter within 24 hours. The list of demands was called the Declaration of White Independence. The appearance of an armed mob resulted from the Black citizens' refusal to leave town and oblige to the list of commands.
At 8 am on the 10th, Alfred M. Waddell and a mob of men went to the armory, where Waddell guided them to Manly's office, where they burned it down. Black people throughout the town were accosted, beaten, hunted, and killed for resisting or being a part of the prosperous Black community. From there, the massacre spread throughout the city. There is speculation about the number of Black people killed, but there are guesses as low as 11 to 30; however, it is believed that the death rate is higher due to the number of Black bodies dumped into the Cape Fear River. Moreover, Alfred Waddell would become the Mayor of Wilmington along with other democrats becoming aldermen and other officeholders.
*This is a general summation of the political environment leading up to the massacre and the event. For a detailed account of the event, see the book recommended below*
The Negro and Fusion Politics in North Carolina, 1894-1901 by
Publication Date: 2003-10-31