tv Cape Fear Rising CSPAN March 19, 2017 2:54pm-3:16pm EDT
is one of the oldest historic houses open to the public in the south. it opened march 30, 1951. what i hope visitors learn by visiting this house is the rich history that is here. a lot of people come initially for the architecture and furnishing. it is beautiful, but learning who the people were. we had three types of people here on this property. we had prisoners, enslaved people, and the wealthiest man -- one of the wealthiest men in the southeast. it is interesting to bring the house to life by talking about these people and what their lives were like if you are a prisoner. all weekend long, american history tv is joining our charter communications partners to showcase the history of wilmington, north carolina. to learn more about the cities
on our current tour, visit c-span.org/cities tour. we continue with our look at the history of willing him. >> standing right here front of the memorial which was put up on the 100th anniversary of the events here that occurred in wilmington in november 1898. it was a long time coming. it was sort of controversial because there were many citizens, both black and white, who really wanted to forget the whole thing. in the black community, it was thought if they brought it up too much, that might bring her the repercussions. the white community, i think they preferred, no pun intended, but to whitewash the past and pretend we have always been a progressive city. i think is one radio host put, you can't put something behind you if you don't put it in front of you first. in 1898, wilmington achieved a very interesting status. this was a huge slaveholding area before the civil war because of the river, which is
back there about a block away. all of the plantation in north carolina were along the river. a huge concentration of the 330,000 slaves in north carolina in 1860 or right here. -- were right here. there's always the fear of a slave uprising. the terrible nightmare, if you will, of the land. they had repressive laws against both free blacks and slaves. and when general sherman came and invaded north carolina from the south, he had liberated some 25,000 enslaved blacks with the army. he got to the head of navigation of the river, fayetteville, and put all of those people on flat boats and meal trains -- mule trains and brought them to wilmington where they were then processed down to the freedmen's bureau. a great many of them stayed here. 1898, wilmington was one of the largest cities in north carolina and of the 70,000 or so citizens, two thirds were black. they had achieved an amazing
thing in just a little more than a generation after being enslaved and coming out of bondage with not even owning the clothes on their back. they had achieved a status of middle-class. they had achieved some political leadership and power. they had achieved social standing and economic wealth and large degree here. it got the reputation of a great place to come to work if you are black. african-americans for the skilled artisans at the mill, and the cotton mills. it was a great place. there was a huge thriving black middle class. they had taken political power from the old democrats. in those days, democrats and republicans were sort of reversed. in 1898, the state democratic party decided it was going to "take back" their state and or -- and their cities from what they thought of as negro domination. this was their kind of way of putting it. they wanted to take back all the elected offices that were going to be coming up in 1898, which
included a lot of the state offices, senator -- but it did not include city council, then called the board of aldermen, or the mayor. they basically stole the election through intimidation. literally guys with shotgun standing at the polling booths, people stealing ballot boxes and recounting them as so forth. and leading up to that, they had a war of words. it took an interesting turn. there were all kinds of anti-black speeches all over the state, the famous order of which was annexed confederate colonel. there was another piece of writing that figured prominently in a newspaper. alexander manley published a newspaper he billed as the first afro american daily newspaper in the country called the daily record. it was sort of a newspaper for community's within the
community's within the community. it was largely ignored by the white community. in an editorial in august 1898, he was responding to a speech given by rebecca felton, the wife of a congressman. she said the greatest danger to white farm wives was being raped by black brutes and if it took lynching 1000 of them, then so be it. she was all in favor of lynching. the newspaper responded. there's always been at least a little bit of doubt as to whether manley wrote the editorial himself. and the editorial, he says mrs. felton from georgia makes a speech before the agricultural society in which she advocates lynching as an extreme measure. this woman makes a strong plea for womanhood and if the alleged crimes of rape were frequent. crimes of rape were frequent. her plea would be worthy of consideration. he goes on to say, we suggest white garter women more closely. as she says, thus giving opportunity for the human scene,
being white or black, you leave your goods out-of-doors and then complain because they are taken away. poor white men are careless in the manner of protecting the women especially on the forms. -- on the farms. he goes on to say sometimes >> it is unclear if this is in earnest or if this is satire. what uproar this got in the community. there are curious things about it, the thing he was responding had happened at least one year earlier. also nobody in the white community read that paper, then it was reprinted on the front page of the daily messenger. pretty much every day until the election. began to be calls for him to be removed from the city.
a couple of this and other events white unions where making the rounds and that they were going into a case that you should fire your black workers and make jobs for whites. theare starting to see appointment shift a little bit. the second thing was the white man's declaration of independence. than 400signed by more of the leading whites in wilmington. it begins this way. believing that the constitution of united states contemplates the government is to be carried on by an enlightened people. the framers did not anticipate the french i spent of a population of african origin. they did not contemplate with their descendents to the inferior race.
this would happen that i before the election and was had by a sizzling speech. them to go home and shoot them in their tracks if they will not go home. with is nothing subtle this, the place erupted in furious applause. you can see there was nothing subtle about this. there was nothing nuanced. it was a power grab going on. already made arrangements in washington to make sure that nobody would come to the aid of wilmington. they would leave them to settle in their own way. they knew that there was going to be no federal intervention. the roundtable on election day, white supremacist candidates were elected across the board. they still do not have a mayor.
ultimatum to the committee of colored citizens which was chosen at random. this was the white declaration of independence. met andk community decided to give them what they wanted. do all ofgoing to those things, but they replied never reached the supremacists. to deliver it was too afraid to go into the black community. to 1000 armed , they marchedered and rampaged on down to the daily record. that was a church hall. they surrounded it and bashed and the door, shop one man
another ran out the back wounded. they then burned the newspaper. he was not at the newspaper at the time, he was with his brother. they actually burned the entire archive of the black community, the archives, it is hard to find even a single copy. there is a famous picture of all of these white men standing in front of this burned out office holding shotguns and rifles. they actually kept the black fire brigade from putting the fire out. only once the building next door caught fire is when they allowed firefighters to step in. in mobs, they get over to the street and there are , they wantworkingmen to find out what is going on. they heard the commotion and saw the smoke. at that point gunfire you rubbed it. we know a couple of things, all
of the dead people were black. the rampage lasted about three days. it was orchestrated and planned for many months. community and leaders have been stockpiling munitions. they probably had a gatling gun at the time. all of theseen militia groups were coming in from elsewhere. of hourstake a couple as they all showed up immediately. then there was a paramilitary operation that was mobilized and they had all of their high-powered rifles. the naval reserve had a howitzer. they shut down wilmington with martial law, they were strip searching men and women. blackwas a number of letter carriers who were beaten to death.
some white women came to the rescue and gave people shelter in their home. this was catastrophic for wilmington in so many ways. a lot of the people who were being chased and harassed fled the city. they went up the river, they went to senators. for three days wilmington shut down. you can pretty much mark the end of their ascendancy as the city of north carolina to the day of this coup. it was a coup d'etat, because the next thing they did was round up the elder men at gunpoint and made them resign. he becomes a multi-term mayor ater that, he is eulogized as
fine figure of chivalry, if you can believe that. no legal action was ever taken to bring these guys to justice. later they went to a statehouse he concocted a piece of legislation that is called the grandfather clause. not just in north carolina but also through states along the mason-dixon. this had huge national repercussions, if the repercussions right here locally for the economy of the city. they took the african-american peoplety and about 1000 that were put on the train and banished from wilmington. these were local leaders, they were preachers. they were funeral directors, they were local politicians,
they were the people up to this point who had been the african-american aldermen. wilmington went back to being ruled by a cadre of white .upremacist so many people who were involved do haveight side when i very prosperous lives, their children and grandchildren stay here and they built their wealth they becameons area really great philanthropists, for university and elsewhere. the manly family was gone. here, so youd land have a situation where the leadership of the black community is warped -- wiped out
for generations. from there we are looking at a thing 100 years later, people are asking the question of what can we do to change that. wilmington you have every decision about redistricting or , all ofistrict voting that has a legacy directed at 1898. that event became the tunnel that ran under wilmington. there are these old drainage tunnels that used to come up to the houses and churches, they were originally for drainage but they are a kind of secret underneath the traffic on the street of wilmington. aalways think of that being secretive run underneath the
city. there is still a memorial it is not really acknowledged. about whispered inversions that were far less than accurate. we do not know how many people died. i think they say 10 on the monument because that is the number of reporters. the number was put at 400 by an expert. eyewitness testimony dumpedwere trumped -- into the river. is hard to know because there was no investigation, nobody was counting or collecting evidence. i do not think it was 400, i think it really rocked the core of the community.
came to wilmington, i came to chicago, that is a very diverse city. i got here and i realized everywhere i was it was you that all white people or all black people. if you go to a certain theater production it is all white or all-black. i thought what is going on here. had written about this, the most famous was charles chestnut. i was really interested in the motivation of this. you are talking about people who good fathers and husbands, deacons and the church, in one case a pastor of a church. i was trying to imagine my way into their mind sets. the practical question was that whoe was 70-80 people joined a narrative. i found representatives from
each of these facets, the planners, the victims and so forth. i was in scrupulous as i could be. in the novel you read about somethingeing shot or else, that happened. i took liberty street in couple of composite characters. these guys did not have minutes at their meetings, what i had to do was i knew that who went in and who cannot. but that was it. i imagine my way into their morality and have thinking and trying to pull some truth out of how the human character remains while remaining true the historical basis. that is why i wrote this as a novel. interestingly enough many people have the reaction that you just made the whole thing up. i can't tell you how many radio done wherei have
people said that never happened. i have had conversation with hundreds of people's over the years, saying they grew up in these counties and we studied history and we learned about the civil war but we never heard any of this. i had methe novel with all of the university officials they were concerned something would happen. there was an african-american , theyf and police chief got together and talk to blow might happen in the black community and white community when the booking up. nothing really happened. there was a lot of anonymous phone calls made, letters to the editor. there was a speaking engagement that went away. least ahere was at
a couple of boards have met. there are trying to figure out if they could sue me. everybody was deceased at that point, there was nothing more. thatt learned last year from our former chancellor that the board of trustees was going to deny my tenure based on this book. there was a number of people on that was standing up for the integrity of the i said i never do that for all this years. eventat is to say in this while it seems like ancient history being over 100 years ago, it really resonates almost as if that happened yesterday for many people. , not singlingt
this out as some defining thing. the black community where the victims here, they were the only victims because of their own success. one of the robust transformations in history. what i would like to do even though it has been a slow road back is i would like to see people encourage the process by which we get back to the position of having that robust leadership of a common good. collects all weekend american history tv is featuring wilmington, north carolina. wentn city staff recently and showcased the city's history. they are home to screen jam studios, it is outside of california about