Today I am exploring the story of a historic strike and union organizing campaign that occurred in Lumberton, N.C., in 1937. That story involves more than a thousand cotton mill workers and a legendary champion of social justice struggles named Myles Horton, the co-founder of the Highlander Folk School.
Wilmington & 1898
The Red Shirts in Lumberton, N.C., 1900
At the turn of the 20th century, the Red Shirts were what we today would call a white nationalist militia group. Bedecked in red trousers and shirts, they barricaded polling sites, shot into homes and generally terrorized those who supported black voting rights.
“White Supremacy is the Motto:” Gen. W. P. Roberts and the Gatesville Rally of 1900
On a summer day in 1900, an old Confederate general stood before a white supremacy rally of thousands in a hamlet on the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp.
“Laws Are Silent Amid Arms:” Remembering Elizabeth City, N.C., in 1898
On the 30th of Sept. 1898, North Carolina newspaper publisher Richard Benbury Creecy wrote, “We are standing on the edge of a race conflict that will shock humanity.” He was not talking about Wilmington, N.C., though, as we might expect, but about another coastal town, Elizabeth City.
The Other Coup D’Etat: Remembering New Bern, N.C., in 1898
A friend in New Bern, N.C., recently sent me an issue of the Raleigh News & Observer that he found in his family's old papers. The newspaper's date was November 5, 1898. A front-page article was about a large white supremacy meeting at the Craven County Courthouse in New Bern.
Edenton and the Battle for White Supremacy
Eighteen months after the Wilmington massacre of 1898, the leading white citizens of Edenton, N.C., gathered at the Chowan County Courthouse to organize a "white supremacy club." Their goal was take away black voting rights forever.
The Exodusters and the Burning of the Hackney Carriage Factory
I recently re-visited Dr. Frenise A. Logan's groundbreaking article on the Exodusters because I wanted to understand better why black insurgents had burned down the Hackney carriage factory in Rocky Mount, N.C., in February of 1890.
Reaping the Whirlwind
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.
The Light of the Body
I never grow weary of looking at these old portraits at the New Hanover County Public Library. They date from the 1850s to the present day, and they're available to us all even in these times of Covid-19.
Summer of the Red Shirts
In today's post, I want to reflect a little bit on our history and how we got here-- how we came to be such a divided people, why our racial divisions seem to run so deep and why our country remains the land that the great writer James Baldwin once called "these yet-to-be-United States."
Their Eyes, Their Faces
I always wonder what happened to them-- the men, women and children that fled Wilmington after the massacre in 1898. I thought of that again just a few days ago when I stumbled onto one of them in a place that I never would have expected-- a catalog for an art exhibit at the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston.
Lorraine Hansberry’s Unfinished Play– Wilmington in 1898
The New York Times reported today that the great African American playwright Lorraine Hansberry was working on a play about the massacre of black citizens in Wilmington, N.C., in 1898 when she died, far too young, of pancreatic cancer in 1965. The news took my breath away.
The Conjure Woman
Today I'm looking at another artifact from the National Museum of African American History and Culture that has a connection to the North Carolina coast: a first edition of a book called The Conjure Woman, a collection of short stories by African American writer, lawyer and activist Charles W. Chesnutt.
Free the Wilmington 10
Some of the National Museum of African American History & Culture's artifacts are very small but hold a lot of meaning. This little pinback button is a good example. The button highlights another important moment in the civil rights movement on the North Carolina coast-- the campaign to free the Wilmington 10.
The Color of Water, part 3: Knotts Island– “No Place for Negroes”
This is the third post in my special series “The Color of Water.” In this series, I am exploring the history of Jim Crow and North Carolina’s coastal waters, including the state’s forgotten history of all-white beaches, “Sundown towns” and racially exclusive resort communities. You can find the other stories in the series here.
A Death of the Heart
"At this point in my research, I was wishing that I could write something about my beloved home state’s history—anything—and not have it come around to race and white supremacy.... So much for telling an innocent little story about a family of bird egg collectors and the popular passion for oology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries."
Wilmington in 1898: A Diary
At the Newberry Library in Chicago, I also found Edward Price Bell’s diaries from Wilmington in 1898. They are different than his reporter's notebooks that I wrote about a few days ago. Bell used his notebooks to record bits and pieces of interviews. Sometimes he also sketched passages of writing that he later used in dispatches to his newspaper, the Chicago Record. The diaries are of a more personal nature.
Wilmington in 1898: Edward Price Bell’s Notebooks
Tim Tyson and I edited an anthology on the Wilmington "race riot” of 1898 nearly 20 years ago, but I still got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach a few weeks ago when I looked at Edward Price Bell’s diary and notebooks at the Newberry Library in Chicago.... Bell covered the white racial violence in Wilmington, N.C., as a roving reporter for the Chicago Record. I wanted to see the notebook that he kept while he was in Wilmington....