Reaping the Whirlwind

Supporters of Pres. Trump climb the wall on the West Wing of the U.S. Capitol after overrunning police barricades. Photo by Jose Luis Magana, AP.

Supporters of Pres. Trump climb the wall on the West Wing of the U.S. Capitol after overrunning police barricades. Photo by Jose Luis Magana, AP.

I just finished another interview about the historic parallels between the attack on the  the U.S. Capitol last week and the violent overthrow of Wilmington, N.C.’s city government by white supremacists in 1898.

It has been a busy week for scholars of American history.

Across the country, journalists and the general public alike have been looking to U.S. history to try to understand better last Wednesday’s events, when Pres. Trump’s supporters laid siege to the U.S. Capitol in order to overturn the results of a fair and democratic election.

Many Americans are searching for historical context in order to make sense of what happened at the U.S. Capitol.  Again and again, they look to the racial massacre and coup d’etat in Wilmington in 1898, when white supremacists overthrew a duly elected government and took power.

Those events in Wilmington have long been known as the only successful coup d’etat in American history.

A few days ago, Hunter Ingram at the Wilmington Star News wrote a compelling story comparing the two moments in American history– the insurrection at the U.S . Capitol last week and Wilmington in 1898. The Associated Press picked up Hunter’s story and  newspapers ran it all over the U.S.

On NBC, MSNBC, CNN and NPR, other stories about the mob at the U.S. Capitol also mentioned Wilmington in 1898.

Even comic Seth Myers referenced the Wilmington massacre and coup d’etat of 1898 on his late night show on NBC.

Reporters at The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun and the Raleigh News & Observer also wrote stories about the events at the U.S. Capitol that mentioned Wilmington in 1898.

Grasping for a way to understand the assault on the U.S. Capitol, even articles on the on-line editions of Teen VogueSmithsonian MagazineEsquire and National Geographic looked to the white supremacy revolt in Wilmington.

On Esquire’s on-line edition, the African American novelist Mitchell S. Jackson wrote:

“To be astounded by what happened Wednesday is to be ignorant of what happened in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1898 when a mob of 2,000 white supremacists, upset that Blacks had been elected to a fusion government, overthrew it, killing 60 people—the only coup d’état on American soil.”

As my friend on Harkers Island said the other night, quoting the Book of Hosea: “They have sown the wind, they shall reap the whirlwind.”

4 thoughts on “Reaping the Whirlwind

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