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Wilmington Riots
(This page was developed by a Berea College student as part of a course on Chesnutt)

The New York Times

The New York Times ran two articles on November 11, 1898 about the riots in Wilmington. One is pictured below and a larger image can be accessed by clicking here. The other is transcribed below. Both appeared on the front page.

NINETEEN NEGROES SHOT TO DEATH

Fatal Race Riots in North and South Carolina.

VENGEANCE OF WHITE CITIZENS

Negro Publisher's Plant Destroyed by Indignant Men

New City Government Formed by the People of Wilmington, and Steps Taken to Restore Order.

WILMINGTON, N.C.. Nov. 10-After a day of bloodshed and turbulence Wilmington has subsided to-night into comparative peacefulness. Nine negroes were killed and three white men wounded during the day, one of them, William Mayo, seriously. To-night the city is in the hands of a new municipal Government and order is being established. This afternoon the members of the Board of Aldermen resigned, one by one. As each Alderman vacated the remainder elected a successor named by the Citizens’ Committee until the entire board was changed legally. They resigned in response to public sentiment. The new board is composed of conservative Democratic citizens.

The Mayor and the Chief of Police then resigned, and the new board elected their successors, according to law. Ex-Representative Waddel was elected Mayor, and L.G. Parmelee Chief of Police. The first act of the new Government was to swear in 250 special policemen, chosen from the ranks of reputable white citizens. They will take charge of the city. The citizens will remain on guard, however, throughout the town to prevent possible attempts at incendiarism. The new Government will devote its attention to restraining recklessness among the whites, as well as keeping down lawlessness among the negroes. Further trouble of a general or serious nature is not expected.

Soon after the meeting George Rountree received a telegram from Gov. Russell, saying he would use all his efforts to influence the Mayor and the Aldermen to resign if that would restore peace. Mr. Rountree sent the following reply:

“Mayor and Aldermen have resigned. Two hundred and fifty special policemen sworn in. Law will be maintained and peace restored.”

Mr. Rountree is a prominent attorney here and a member of the Democratic Congressional Committee.

The trouble in Wilmington to-day commenced at 8:30 o’clock this morning, when an armed body of citizens, numbering about 400 and led by ex-Representative Wadell,Chaireman of a committee of twenty-five appointed for the purpose, proceeded to the publishing house of a negro newspaper, the Record, to wreck it. The editor of this paper had published an article defamatory of white women, and a mass meeting of citizens yesterday ordered his expulsion from the city within twenty-four hours and the removal of his prows. Fifteen leading negroes were called in by the committee of twenty-five last night and directed to notify the Chairman by 7:30 o’clock this mourning whether they would agree to the removal of the press. They were informed that if no answer were returned the press would be demolished.

No answer was received by the chairman this mourning, and , after waiting an hour, the citizens proceeded in a body and demolished the fixtures of the printing office. The building was also fired and gutted. The leaders say that this action was the work of irresponsible persons, and as soon as the fire was discovered the Fire Department was called the extinguish it.

The burning of the printing office created a great commotion among the negroes of the town. The rumor spread that the whites were going to burn and murder in the negro quarter. This rumor reached the negro employees of a cotton compress, numbering three or four hundred, who quit work and hung about the streets in manifest terror. Other parties congregated in the negro section, and it was in one of these that the first tragedy was enacted. The men were standing on a corner and were ordered to disperse. They declined, and, it is claimed, fired into the whites.

A fusillade was immediately opened upon them by the whites, and three negroes were killed. Two whites were wounded slightly. One Negro ran down the street, and , passing a residence, fired a rifle at William Mayo, white, standing on the veranda, shooting him through the left lung. This negro was recognized, pursued, and captured while hiding under a bed. It is said he confessed to the shooting. He was riddled with shot by his captors and killed. In the meantime the town was in a state of excitement. The whites rushed to the scene from every direction, the local military company was ordered out, and a battalion of United States naval militia proceeded to the vicinity of the trouble with a rapid-fire gun.

During the afternoon there were other affairs of this kind, and eight negroes were killed at various times in the disturbed sections. Their names at this time are unknown. Another negro was killed to-night at Tenth and Mulberry Street. He was hailed by a guard, but refused to halt, and, continuing to advance, was shot.

As the news of the riot spread through the neighboring cities, they offered to send help, and all such offers were declined, except in the case of Fayetteville, from which town came about 150 men. as night fell the town was completely patrolled and guarded. Very few negroes were on the streets, and they were not allowed to congregate anywhere. The action of the citizens in organizing a new municipal government is expected to bring peace and order, and no rioting is expected to-night.

It developed later in the day that the men composing the Negro Committee summoned last night had agreed to use their offices to have the press removed, although the editor had disappeared and they had no authority on the premises. Their letter to that effect, instead of being delivered to the Chairman of the committee of twenty-five in person, was put in the mail and did not reach him until three hours after the expiration of the time limit which had been fixed for the reception of an answer.

A crowd was formed to-night to take from the jail and lynch two negroes, Thomas Miller and Ira Bryant, who were arrested to-day charged with making threats and were regarded as dangerous cases. The mayor, Col. Waddell, promptly prohibited the assembling of the crowd at the jail, and he himself headed a guard of twenty-five men with winchesters to guard the prisoners.

Three companies of State millitia will arrive during the night from neighboring cities and aid in maintaining order.


Funifold M. Simmons

Furnifold Simmons was the Democratic Chairman of North Carolina. After the Civil War, a new political party was formed called the Fusionists. They were made up mainly of Republicans and Negroes, and gained many seats in the government. Simmons, as a way of trying to unseat them, brought to the table in the elections of 1898 the idea of white supremacy. Below is a portion of the letter he wrote to white voters in order to win their vote.

To the Voters of North Carolina:

The most memorable campaign ever waged in North Carolina is approaching its end. It has been a campaign of startling and momentous developments. The issues which have overshadowed all others have been the questions of honest and economical state government, and WHITE SUPREMACY. These issues were not planned and inaugurated by parties or conventions, but they were evolved out of the extraordinary conditions of the situation. Strenuous efforts have been made by the Fusionist leaders to divert the attention of the people from these conditions and to throw the campaign into other channels, but all their efforts in this direction have proven impotent.

The people of North Carolina are sufficiently intelligent to discriminate between good and bad government. They are sufficiently virtuous to want good and honest government. They have seen the government of the last two years, and they recognize it to be bad and corrupt, and they were not to be seduced from their purpose to sharply arraign the party which has debauched the state before the bar of public opinion.

The horrible condition of affairs in the eastern counties and the progress there of Negro domination over white communities raised the question of whether in any part of North Carolina men of Anglo-Saxon blood should be subjected to the rule and mastery of the Negro, and this issue burned itself into the hearts of the people and kindled a fire of indignation which cannot be smothered by “Executive Proclamation,” or by the threat of federal bayonets.......

.....The business of two of the largest and most prosperous cities in the state had been paralyzed by the blight of Negro domination. In another city a white majority had been discriminated against in favor of a black minority, and the white man, who bore all the burdens and expense of government, had been given only one-half the representation of the ignorant and non-taxpaying Negro.

White women, of pure Anglo-Saxon blood, had been arrested upon groundless charges by Negro constables, and arraigned and tried and sentenced by Negro magistrates....

Negro congressmen, Negro solicitors, Negro revenue officers, Negro collectors of customs, Negroes in charge of white institutions, Negroes in charge of white schools, Negroes controlling the finances of great cities, Negroes in control of the sanitation and police of cities, Negro constables arresting white women and white men, Negro magistrates trying white women and white men, white convicts chained to Negro convicts and forced to social equality with them....

Before this overwhelming array of evidence, the weak and puny wall of defense set up by the apologists of Negro rule crumbled away, and then there came the collapse......