1898 Wilmington Race Riot


Political Tension Turns Violent:

Black Citizens Arming :

"...Wilmington's white hardware merchants had refused to sell ammunition or
weapons to the county's blacks. However, reacting to this, a black man
calling himself William Lee had M.H. McAllister, a black paralytic who was a
letter writer for the city's black community, order rifles from the
Winchester Arms Company of New Jersey.Rather than filling the order, the
company referred it to Odell Hardware Company of Greensboro, its State
Iredell Meares, a Wilmington lawyer...investigate(d) the race and identity of
McAllister and Lee. Meares replied that both were black, and that the name
William Lee was a cover for John William Lee, chairman of the New Hanover
County Republican Executive Committee."
(McDuffie, pp 625-626)

"....Two black Pinkerton detectives (were hired) to investigate the rumors
of blacks arming. These two detectives reported to (Walker) Taylor, and he
informed the Group Six that the black women servants had threatened to set
fire to their employers homes, and that the black men had threatened to burn
down the town if the White Supremacy ticket won."  (McDuffie, page 627)

"...a rumor circulated that an angry mob of 250 blacks was gathering and
intended to attack the Rough Riders in the Fifth Ward. The white citizens in
the first precinct of the Third Ward prepared for the attack. The men
carried their families to "pre-arranged places of meeting and left them
there under proper protection." When it became apparent that the rumor was
groundless, the white men disbanded and they left a guard detail on duty for
the night. But the excitement generated by the rumor did not disappear.
(McDuffie, pp. 668-670)

Violence Erupts:

"As some of the white men who had participated in the march on the Daily
Record were making their way home, they passed through the Brooklyn section
of the city. This was one of the black residential sections of Wilmington.
These armed white men passed fifty black men congregated on the corners of
Fourth and Harnett Streets in the area. Some of the blacks made loud and disparaging remarks about the white men and their guns. These remarks brought the white men to a halt. When the white men ordered the black men to move off the corners and go to their homes, they refused.

They were determined not to be bullied by these white men....shooting started coming simultaneously from both sides. The whites responded with "a volley from shotguns, Winchester rifles and revolvers."

Three of  the black men fell dead, and the others began scampering pell-mell
down the streets. The anticipated violence had finally erupted at 11:00AM on
Thursday, November 10. Some of the blacks returned the fire, and they
wounded three whites, William Mayo, George Piner, and N.B. Chadwick. The
wounding of these three white men increased he fury of the whites, and they
prepared to march into the black neighborhoods. When some gunfire came from Manhattan Hall, the Wilmington Light Infantry "double-quicked" to the place and tore it down, the fence surrounding the black dance hall. After firing on the men in the building, they searched it and arrested four men."

(McDuffie, pp711-716)

"In an effort to disarm the city's blacks, Walker Taylor detailed a
detachment of the WLI and the Naval Reserves to search some of the black
churches. It was rumored that these black churches were stacked with arms
and that black men were hiding there waiting for the opportune time to strike.  "...Taylor and Morton continued to prepare for any black counterattack. As
they planned their campaign, they received word that there was a possibility
of 300 to 500 "fully armed" blacks advancing on Wilmington from adjoining
Brunswick County. (McDuffie, pp. 718-719)


Sources and Recommended Reading::

Politics in New Hanover County and Wilmington, 1865-1900. The Genesis of a Race Riot. Jerome A. McDuffie, Doctoral dissertation, Kent State University 1979. UMI Dissertation Services.

Email: editor@1898wilmington.hypermart.net