Unknown to many citizens of this so-called nation, is one of the most un-well-known coup d-etats that occurred on American soil.

Another coup d’état, among many, had also occurred in Colfax, Louisiana on  Easter Sunday, April 13, 1873.

The second-most known coup e’tat took place in Wilmington, North Carolina.

In 1896, Republican bi-racial coalition government of Blacks and Whites held offices in the city of Wilmington. Racist white supremacist Democrats hungered to bring this legitimately elected government down and put in its place an illegitimate government in their fear of a supposed “negro domination” government. In 1894, Ben “Pitchfork” Tillman, who uttered demonic venom towards Black political suffrage,  exhorted the blood-thirsty racists:  “Be a white man, or be a nigger, you have got to make a choice!”, epitomized White male fear of racial and gender anxiety of the bi-racial government so much that the Democrats used political violence and intimidation to bring down the legitimate government. Thus set in motion was the complete destruction of the government of Wilmington, NC with a coup de’tat.

coup de’tat: ˌko͞o dāˈtä/; noun; of French origin; mid 17th century: French, literally ‘blow of state.’;

1. a sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government; synonym: seizure of power

The power of the white press as well fanned the flames of racial genocide, racial pogroms, death, destruction, and banishment.

Prominent newspapers of the time, Wilmington’s The Morning Star and the Raleigh News and Observer (newspapers which are still in existence) spread lies/cartoons to help along the holocaust of this massacre with fake headlines.  Josephus Daniels, white newspaper editor, promoted white supremacy and sold newspapers with his white savage hatred of many, many innocent Black citizens. Always trotted out was the white supremacy campaign to destroy the bi-racial coalition and the ol’ thread-bare, tired, worn-out lie that Black men were raping White women was drummed up to use as an excuse to tear down the legitimate government by white terrorism all across the state of North Carolina.

A letter written to a white newspaper editor summed it up:

“North Carolina is a white man’s state and white men will rule it, they will crush the party of negro domination beneath a majority so overwhelming that  no other party will ever again dare attempt to establish negro rule here.” (1)

One of the ringleaders of the anti-black campaign was former Democratic congressman Alfred M. Waddell, who it was said, had become enraged at a recent report that a black attorney had told a white attorney over a dispute in court, “Young man, you have got to got to school again. You are now talking to a lawyer.” Waddell was heard to complain that “nigger lawyers are sassing white men in our courts,” and swore, “We will not live under these intolerable conditions. No society can stand it. We intend to change it, if we have to choke the current of Cape Fear River with negro carcasses.” (2)

Not to be forgotten in this already inflamed environment of venomous racial hatred was Rebecca Latimer Felton, a white racist supremacist and enslaver of Black women, men and children. Her racist remarks about the supposed sexual depravity of Black men further added a fire that was a catalyst to push insane White men over the edge to annihilate the entire Black population of Wilmington, NC.

Reb Felton-Geo Senate.jpg

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress (Public domain)

Beginning in 1885 she and her husband published a newspaper The Courant, in Cartersville, GA, and for twenty years she wrote a column about rural affairs for The Atlanta Journal. Felton became sickenedly obsessed with the mentally unbalanced perceived dangers she felt Black men posed to the so-called purity of white womanhood. In an address to the Georgia State Agricultural Society at its convention on Tybee Island on August 12, 1897, she added hell to this monstrous massacre in her talk “Women on the Farm.” The main gist of tenets was the need for White men to provide more security, since Black men with supposed “unlimited access to liquor were now permitted to roam freely.”

“If it takes lynching to protect woman’s [White woman] dearest possession from drunken, ravening human beasts,” she told the gathered farmers, “then I say lynch a thousand a week if it becomes necessary.”

Her remarks stayed on in the summer of 1898, and with the upcoming November election caused many Blacks to double-bolt their doors and prepare themselves for the Armageddon that was coming.

One Black newspaper owner fought against this depravity in his editorial about White male sexual perversity and hypocrisy, and his name was Alexander Manley. Editor of the Daily Record, Manley published unbarred writings to combat the vile racism that engulfed the South.

Alex Manly

Alexander Manly (Image Ownership: Public Domain)

Born of mixed race parents before Emancipation (his freedman father was a former slave with African and European ancestry, his mother was a free woman of color), Manly never went along with the bi-racial/mulatto buffer zone mentality. He considered himself a Black man first and foremost and would not become an accomplice to white racist supremacy because of his racial ancestry. Angered over the lies told over and over again of the supposed brute, bestial -nature- of -White- woman -hungering Black men lie/myth, Manley stood up to the racist double standard of White male sexualized gendered violence that they were committing against innocent, defenseless Black women and Black girls. Manley responded to Felton’s remarks. Manley in his newspaper fired off the following in an editorial published on August 18, 1898, where he took on the rape myth point-blank, stating that what whites were so quick to call “rape” was very often simply an exposed liaison:

“Our experiences among poor white people in the country teach us that the women of that race are not anymore particular in the matter of clandestine meetings with colored men, than are the white men with colored women. . . .Meetings of this kind go on for some time until the white women’s infatuation or the man’s boldness brings attention to them and the man is lynched for rape. Every Negro lynched is called a “big, burly black brute” when in fact many of these. . . .had white men for their fathers and were not only not “black and burly” but were sufficiently attractive for white girls to fall in love with them. . . .Mrs. Felton must begin at the fountain head, if she wishes to purify the stream.” (3)

Manley then addressed the racist raping White men of North Carolina:

“You set yourselves down as a lot of carping hypocrites; in fact, you cry aloud for the virtue of your women, while you seek to destroy the morality of ours. Don’t think ever that your women will remain pure while you are debauching ours. You sow the seed—-the harvest will come in good time.” (4)

With this, the Red Shirt Democrats went on one of the most bloodthirstiness of barbarities this so-called nation has ever seen.

On November 10, 1898, mobs of Whites descended upon the Black community of Wilmington and annihilated them. Blacks fought back valiantly with pistols and shotguns, but they were no match for the heavy artillery of the murderous whites. Manley’s paper was destroyed. He and his brother, Frank G. Manley, co-owner of the Daily Record, barely escaping Wilmington with their lives.

In the mob were illiterate whites, educated whites, white members of the state’s congress, business owners, school teachers, lawyers, doctors, and even white ministers who were supposed to adhere to the teachings of Jesus Christ  (but instead committed blasphemy against the Most High)—-all of them flooded into the Black community and tore to pieces so many defenseless Black people.

Most vile of the murderers were the military types, notably the military veterans of the Spanish-American War. Armed with the most recent technology of white supremacy at that time, these military veterans slaughtered many Blacks with the Gatling gun, a forerunner of the machine gun.

A photograph of a British 1865 Gatling gun at Firepower – The Royal Artillery Museum. (Photo credit: Max Smith)

By the time it ended, many Blacks had been shot down in cold blood, bludgeoned to death, stabbed to death, beaten to death—men, women, children, and infants, with many surviving Blacks fleeing in terror for their lives into the surrounding woods. Some whites were wounded; none were killed. White Democrats took the government of Wilmington, NC from the legitimately elected Black and White Republicans and set up their own racist white supremacy junta.

Wilmington vigilantes B.jpg

A mob of white men posed for a news photographer at the fire-burned offices of the black newspaper Daily Record in Wilmington, N.C. Courtesy of the North Carolina Office of Archives & History

The casualties reported numbered upwards of twenty-five, but the estimate is that there were at least 250-1,000 murdered Blacks or more. The true amount will never be known. After the massacre, more than 2,100 blacks left Wilmington forever, having to abandon their businesses and properties to the murderous mob, resulting in the once black-majority city (business owners, police force, firemen, dentists, grocers) becoming a white-majority city from white theft. Among those who left were Alex and Frank G. Manly, brothers who had owned the Daily Record.

Alexander Manly (Image: Public domain)

Governor Russell of North Carolina telegraphed Black officials in Wilmington to resign their positions which by then was a moot suggestion as the racist White Democrats had already murdered or caused to flee the blacks who were elected to government.

Typescript of letter written by Alex Manly’s widow Caroline “Carrie” Sadgwar Manly,Date: Jan. 14.   In this January 14, 1954, letter she relates the story of the Wilmington Race Riot and her future husband’s escape to safety.  SOURCE 

A white mob now ruled Wilmington, and its leader, Alfred Waddell, had just appointed himself mayor.

Col. Alfred Moore Waddell

Col. Alfred Moore Waddell led the white supremacists who descended on Wilmington’s City Hall on Nov. 10, 1898. Library of Congress

After Waddell’s creation of his junta, he and his team were re-elected in March 1899 to city offices. The same year, the racist Democratic-dominated state legislators passed a constitutional suffrage amendment that disenfranchised black and poor white voters. It required voters to pay a poll tax and pass a literacy test (administered by whites, many of whom themselves could barely read or write) in order to register to vote, with both measures put in practice which discriminated against blacks and poor whites. This event also ushered in Jane Crow segregation and separate-but-equal lives for millions of Black Americans. It was not until over a century later with the Civil Rights of the 1960s that these destructions of justice in Black voter suffrage were overturned.

November 10, 2018, will be the 120TH anniversary of the Wilmington Massacre.

Many whites who have ancestors who participated in this brutal holocaust would prefer to forget this second bloody coup de’tat that occurred in the United States.

Blacks would not soon forget Wilmington.

The slaughter and destruction of the Black community of Wilmington, North Carolina would live on for many years as one of the  most vicious of genocide and crimes against humanity that this so-called land of the free, home of the brave has ever committed against her Black citizens.



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  1. Thank you Ann for this timely and important blog post. To me, this is history repeating itself because of the current racial, gender, and ethnic tension in America, especially in the context of the 2015 Charleston massacre by that evil terrorist as well as the hateful, violent rhetoric coming from Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and, to a lesser extent, Hillary Clinton. But Trump takes the cake on his hateful rhetoric and inciting his “followers” to act that hatred in violence.

    Thank goodness for Rev. Barber of the Moral Monday movement for pushing back the violent racist rhetoric of today. It’s a repeat of the 1898, esp. with the disenfranchisement of voters of Color with voter ID in his home state.

    What happened in Wilmington, NC back in 1898 should have been taught in American schools, but because of America’s blind adherence to the ideology of “American Exceptionalism” and “colorblindness”, it was never taught.


  2. Reblogged this on Steph's Blog and commented:
    History’s repeating itself.

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