• Wilmington's Lie

  • The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy
  • By: David Zucchino
  • Narrated by: Victor Bevine
  • Length: 11 hrs and 26 mins
  • Categories: History, Americas
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (161 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

By the 1890s, Wilmington was North Carolina’s largest city and a shining example of a mixed-race community. It was a bustling port city with a burgeoning African American middle class and a Fusionist government of Republicans and Populists that included black aldermen, police officers, and magistrates. There were successful black-owned businesses and an African American newspaper, The Record. But across the state - and the South - white supremacist Democrats were working to reverse the advances made by former slaves and their progeny. 

In 1898, in response to a speech calling for white men to rise to the defense of Southern womanhood against the supposed threat of black predators, Alexander Manly, the outspoken young Record editor, wrote that some relationships between black men and white women were consensual. His editorial ignited outrage across the South, with calls to lynch Manly. 

But North Carolina’s white supremacist Democrats had a different strategy. They were plotting to take back the state legislature in November “by the ballot or bullet or both”, and then use the Manly editorial to trigger a “race riot” to overthrow Wilmington’s multi-racial government. Led by prominent citizens including Josephus Daniels, publisher of the state’s largest newspaper, and former Confederate Colonel Alfred Moore Waddell, white supremacists rolled out a carefully orchestrated campaign that included raucous rallies, race-baiting editorials and newspaper cartoons, and sensational, fabricated news stories. 

With intimidation and violence, the Democrats suppressed the black vote and stuffed ballot boxes (or threw them out), to win control of the state legislature on November eighth. Two days later, more than 2,000 heavily armed Red Shirts swarmed through Wilmington, torching the Record office, terrorizing women and children, and shooting at least 60 black men dead in the streets. The rioters forced city officials to resign at gunpoint and replaced them with mob leaders. Prominent blacks - and sympathetic whites - were banished. Hundreds of terrified black families took refuge in surrounding swamps and forests. 

This brutal insurrection is a rare instance of a violent overthrow of an elected government in the US. It halted gains made by blacks and restored racism as official government policy, cementing white rule for another half century. It was not a “race riot”, as the events of November 1898 came to be known, but rather a racially motivated rebellion launched by white supremacists. 

In Wilmington’s Lie, Pulitzer Prize-winner David Zucchino uses contemporary newspaper accounts, diaries, letters, and official communications to create a gripping and compelling narrative that weaves together individual stories of hate and fear and brutality. This is a dramatic and definitive account of a remarkable but forgotten chapter of American history.

©2020 David Zucchino (P)2020 Recorded Books

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HOW TO GAIN AN UNDERSTANDING OF HOW RACISM HAS BEEN USED AS A TOOL BY WEALTHY

This book should have been entitled RACISM 101. It examines how white America has leveraged racism to seize wealth and to maintain a cheap source of labor.

6 people found this helpful

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put this in all pictures schools

this amazing book tells a story that has stayed hidden for too long. it's June 2020 as I write this review and the klan is still in Wilmington North Carolina

5 people found this helpful

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Extraordinary Book!

It takes courage to engage the horrific and ugly truths of the toxic racist ideas and racism fundamental to the formation of America, but engage we must. David Zucchino has done us a profound service in telling the story of on city and state. May we be courageous enough to pursue repair once we know the truth.

4 people found this helpful

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Uneasy listen

as a black man in America this is hard to swallow. the vile and deceitful ways white men destroyed black people all because of skin color. This is a must listen for the generation that thinks black people are angry for no reason.

2 people found this helpful

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Eye opening

I moved to Wilmington 3 years ago. I had no knowledge of this history. Disappointing/shocking for sure. I am sure there is still racism but I’m not sure it is more than in other towns I’ve lived: Ft Worth, St Louis, Philadelphia, Atlanta. I am happy to say a black couple I know wants to move to Wilmington because they see it as a racially accepting town. It seems it is to me. I certainly hope I’m right.

2 people found this helpful

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Captivating!!!

my favorite quote "If there's a hell i hope they're burning in it all'em

2 people found this helpful

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Informative

Growing up 2hrs from Wilmington and once living there this was a powerful, informative book. It should be taught in schools. I enjoyed the book as a whole and also how they brought everything full circle with interviewing people in 2018.

2 people found this helpful

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History Lesson

Profound reading based from documented evidence. Should be taught in public schools and higher education.

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  • WD
  • 02-10-20

readable, well-researched history of the bloody rise of Jim Crow

White mobs conspired for months, coordinated with state and federal officers and attacked on election eve to suppress black voter turnout. Large caliber rapid fire weapons were pre-positioned and white supremacists were given repeating rifles in the months and weeks leading up to the unprovoked, coordinated attacks. As Election Day unfolded the white citizens of Wilmington decided a coup was the fastest way to unseat the existing duly elected mayor, aldermen, police and firemen. Blacks were driven into the swamps and many died after days of outdoor exposure and starvation. This was the first of two decades of violent white supremacist coups against black populations including the massacre in 1921 in Tulsa. Wilmington’s coup was sustained by poll taxes, the Grandfather Clause and other devices that ushered in the Jim Crow South. I never knew this history but was curious to learn more about a beach town I visit regularly. What a dark and bloody history those white southerners have to live down. Even the 1998 centennial was denied and downplayed by Wilmington’s white society. Sad. Never forget.

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A very sad but eye opening account

So many mixed emotions after reading this book. It looks like history is trying to repeat itself in 2021. Great explanation of the 1898 Coup and rich with facts. Great read.