1898 Wilmington Race Riot

Recollections Of The 1898 Conflict:

A Conversation with George Rountree III on the 1898 Conflict

(Raleigh News & Observer, February 22, 2000)

Here are excerpts from a conversation with George Rountree III, Wilmington attorney, about the 1898 events.  His grandfather, George Rountree, worked with the Committee of Nine to improve political conditions in Wilmington.

George Rountree

On the Causes:

Now after the Civil War, and my grandfather Rountree was about 9 or 10 at the juncture—that’s 1865 to 68—there was sent into the South the group of Northerners referred to by Southerners as carpetbaggers, seeking to emasculate the South to prevent the South from rising again to the cultural and economic prosperity it enjoyed before the war.

Huge resentment developed over the next three decades until 1897.  From 1867 to 1897, this migration of Northern carpetbaggers into the South, who appeared more often than not under federal auspices, caused a great disaffection to develop.

In point of fact, my grandfather contended that the blacks in Wilmington who had been elected had been put in office by these carpetbaggers in order to continue to visit upon the South the Northern idea that the South was inferior as a region and should remain subjugated.

On his grandfather’s role: My grandfather’s friends here were all members of the Committee of Nine. …The Committee of Nine consulted my grandfather to help the Committee of Nine in an orderly, non-violent fashion to cause the blacks and whites who had been put in office in this county to resign and leave the county.

Now at about that time, there was the same process gong on in Fayetteville, in Greenville, in Kinston, in Goldsboro and in other places in Eastern North Carolina east of Raleigh.  Wilmington just happened to be the place at which the keg was ignited.

And the feeling developed that unless and until members of the responsible white community could return the control of government to property owners who have a stake in society, then the conditions in the South were going to continue to deteriorate to an unmanageable and highly volatile condition.

It was in that environment that the Committee of Nine consulted my grandfather to prepare documents and determine the legality of what the Committee of Nine wanted to do, and that was to remove the mayor of Wilmington, the publisher of the black newspaper, the Collector of Customs, a black man who was the highest-paid public official in North Carolina at that time..…The Committee of Nine felt that the condition had been forced on them, not by the blacks who lived and worked in the area, but from blacks and whites from the North.  And therein lay the problem.

Northern Carpetbag Influence Remains:

As the Committee of Nine represented by my grandfather approached the election in 1898, they wanted to eliminate the blacks from the election process because the blacks that were in the election process were dominated by Northerners who were trying to decimate the South.  But the situation got out of control.  Once you begin that sort of confrontational conduct, then no one knows exactly what is going to occur.

On violence on Nov. 10, 1898:  the Committee of Nine abhorred the violence and bloodshed that took place. … There is no question that my grandfather had a significant part to play in the environment that triggered the riots and violence of 1898.  But let me make plain that I offer no apology for him. He needs no apology.  I am sorry personally as the rest of my family is that such conditions existed in this part of the world that triggered that kind of violence.

If we could go back and undo it and correct all the wrongs that were visited on the South and the wrongs that were visited in 1898, to the extent they were, we would.  But we can’t undo history.

Revisionist Historians Write About 1898:

I am disturbed about it. I perceive it as an effort by academia to glorify an event that at worse was a horrible tragedy and at best was a part of the history of the South that is lamentable.

…The problem is not blacks and whites, but disenfranchised versus franchised.  I use those words to mean those people who don’t have a stake in society, who don’t have a good job, who don’t have an education, who don’t have opportunity versus those who do.  My family, as long as I have been alive, has been committed to the notion that it will help disenfranchised folks, within our ability, to emerge from that condition to a condition in which they have a stake in society.

The Legacy of 1898:

Number one: You cannot foist upon a society that has for hundreds of years operated on a given standard, you cannot foist a change upon that society without expecting a violent reaction. 

End of Interview


The Wilmington Race Revolution:

The True Story From the Official Records

Edited, Compiled and Published by William Lord DeRosset, 1938

(From the Pictorial and Historical New Hanover County and Wilmington, North Carolina, 1723-1938)


 "The Wilmington Race Revolution, November 10th, 1898, was the direct result of ill-advice given Negroes by unprincipled white Republican leaders.  This scurrilous influence, supplemented with recognition given Negroes, through minor political offices such as magistrates, police duties, etc., had made the darkies impudent, and insolent.  The situation finally developed to the point where white women and children were being insulted, pushed off the sidewalks into gutters.  

The racial break came at the time mentioned above.  As a result, within 48 hours, it resulted in the white race asserting itself and regaining absolute control of the municipal and county governments.  The conflict was the direct outcome of the general causes outlined in the opening paragraph.  The principal and motivating final cause, combined with the general insolence and overbearing attitude of the Negro race, following bad counsel which they received and followed, was a diabolical and defamatory editorial.  This appeared in a Negro daily owned and edited by a contemptible Negro named F.L Manly.


This defamatory editorial was as follows, published under date of August 18, 1898:

“Poor white men are careless in the matter of protecting their women. Especially on the farms.  They are careless of their conduct toward them.  Our experience among poor white people in the country teaches us that women of that race are not more particular in the matter of clandestine meetings with colored men than the white men with colored women. Meetings of this kind go on for some time until the woman’s infatuation or the man’s boldness, bring attention to them, and the man is lynched for rape.  Every Negro lynched is called ‘a big burly black brute.’  In fact, many of those who have been thus dealt with had white men for their fathers, and were not only not ‘black’ and ‘burly,’ but were sufficiently attractive for white girls of culture and refinement to fall in love with them, as is very well known to all.”

As indicated, the above defamatory editorial brought the situation to a climax.  The result was that within 48 hours (when the break came about a month following publication of the editorial) the white men of the city rose in their wrath and indignation.  They overthrew the then existing radical, Republican Government and drove the majority of the Negroes’ white leaders from the city.

 In a review of this nature, brevity, as a matter of course, is essential.  For this reason, only the high spots which led to a restoration in Wilmington, of a white man’s government for white people, can be set forth.

While the cumulative causes had resulted from a number of years’ misgovernment in the State, the county, and the city, the fact is that for a year previous to the break, the white men of Wilmington realized that they had to band together to protect their homes. Colonel Roger Moore, a brave and distinguished officer of the Confederate Army in command of the Third North Carolina Cavalry, by popular acclaim had been placed in entire charge by his fellow citizens.  They had confidence in his integrity, his coolness and discretion as a leader. Capt. Walter G. MacRae and Dr. J.E. Matthews were selected as Lieutenants.

Under Colonel Moore’s guidance the entire city was zoned and sectioned.  Each city block was patrolled throughout the night, for twelve months or more, prior o the break.

One can well imagine the indignation and burning resentment which followed publication of the infamous editorial in the Negro daily.  Within the first week of November, 1898, in the State election, the Republican regime was swept out of power. Democracy again reigned supreme.  The determined campaign waged in New Hanover County had been largely instrumental in influencing other sections of the State.

On the morning of November 9th, 1898 a mass meeting of white citizens was called in the court house of New Hanover County.  Colonel Alfred Moore Waddell who had represented this District in Congress, was called to the chair. A lengthy set of resolutions was read and adopted.

The gist of these resolutions was approval of the fact that a white man’s government had been restored in the State, and that it was the determination of the citizens present to have a similar form of Government in Wilmington, to succeed the disreputable “carpet bag” regime which had disgraced the city over a period of years.  The chief feature of the resolution was an ultimatum to the Negro editor Manly, declaring his banishment from the city within a period of 24 hours.

A citizen-committee of 25 was appointed at the mass meeting to carry out the spirit of the resolutions.  This committee held an organization meeting during the afternoon.  In the meantime they had called a number of Negro citizens, who were assumed to be leaders of their race, into conference.  To this delegation of Negroes was given the ultimatum about Manly’s banishment.  A reply within twelve hours was demanded.  Failure to receive such a reply, it was declared, would be followed with definite action by the white citizens.  The reply was demanded by 7:00 A. M., of November 10th, 1898, presumably by hand, from the Negro delegation.  It appeared that an answer was drafted by the Negroes, but supposedly, was placed in the mails.

The morning of November 10th, 1898 in Wilmington, was characterized with a tense nervousness, which indicated subsequent startling developments.  It was generally known that the reply which had been expected from the Negro committee had not been received.  Shortly after daybreak, Colonel Moore and his divisional leaders had taken their assigned positions in different parts of the city, where they remained until developments required their presence elsewhere.

About 10:00 A.M., a crowd gathered at the Wilmington Light Infantry Armory on Market Street.  Colonel Waddell was present.  In response to suggestions from members of the crowd he led the assemblage to the neighborhood where the Negro paper was published.  This building caught fire soon after the arrival of the crowd.  Many joined in the statement that the fire resulted accidentally.  In any event the building was practically destroyed, the blaze, at the same time wiping out of existence the Negro sheet which had carried the editorial defaming and traducing the white women of the South.

When reports of the fire were received in the business district, considerable excitement prevailed.  At the corner of Front and Walnut Streets, a large crowd of Negro laborers, who were employed at the nearby cotton compresses, gathered.  These colored people were not intent on making trouble.  The fact is, the belief was expressed that few, if any, were armed.  They were, rather, in a state of bewilderment, wondering what had happened, and what might eventuate.

Colonel Roger Moore, as stated above, was in command of the entire situation.  While controlling the assembled citizens at Front and Walnut Streets, Colonel Moore was harassed by two or three excitable, white men.  They told him, in effect, if he did not give the order to fire into the Negroes on the opposite corner, that they would do so.  Without losing his head, but with calmness and determination, Colonel Moore responded to these hot heads.  He said he had been placed in command by his fellow citizens.  Until they recalled him he intended to remain in command.  He said there was no occasion at this time for bloodshed and he certainly had no intention of having bewildered Negroes slain in cold blood.

With this announcement, Colonel Moore told the several men who were commanding him to give the order to fire, that he would allow them exactly one minute in which to take their place in the ranks.  If they did not comply immediately, then he would have them arrested and placed in jail until they cooled off.  These men clearly perceived that Colonel Moore meant exactly what he said. 

They then lost no time in obeying his command.

The actual outbreak, resulting in loss of life, happened in the northern section of the city, early in the afternoon.  A Negro fired into a crowd of white men, standing near the corner of Fourth and Harnett Streets.  One white man was seriously wounded.  Later, another was shot and painfully hurt.  During the turbulence and conflict which resulted, it was estimated that from seven to ten Negroes were killed.

Realizing that the aid of military forces was essential, appeal had been made to the Governor for declaration of martial law.  In the late afternoon, this step was taken.  Several companies of soldiers from nearby points were ordered into Wilmington.  Colonel Walker Taylor, of the National Guard, was then placed in command.  With this step, the organized citizens forces which had been functioning on a quiet basis for a year or more under the direction of Colonel Moore, disbanded. There was no further need for their services.  Colonel Taylor was a man of discretion and good judgment, and the situation within 48 hours was so much quieter, that the visiting troops were ordered home.

Many Negroes who were frightened to the point of distraction with the turn of events, went to the woods near the city.  They thought their lives were in jeopardy.  One of the last orders given by Colonel Moore before his authority was vested in Colonel Taylor, was to a number of white men.  He told them to go in the woods, tell the Negroes they could safely return to their homes, if they behaved themselves, and that they would be protected.

Within three days the resignations of both colored and white city officials (representing the scum of the radical Republican rule), had been forced.  Colonel A. M. Waddell was chosen Mayor, and an entirely new board of aldermen elected.  Under this change of administration, municipal affairs were straightened out, and all preparations completed for a progressive and sane policy of ruling the city, under white administration.  Assurances were given the Negroes that as long as they recognized the fact that past conditions would never again be permitted, that their welfare would be looked after under the new condition of affairs.

A number of despicable white leaders who had largely been responsible for the unwholesome condition of affairs, were escorted by an outraged citizenship to trains, placed aboard cars, and ordered never to return to Wilmington.  Thus ended, what in effect might be termed the “Wilmington Revolution.”  It was in reality merely a determined, successful movement among white citizens to control and to manage the affairs of their municipal Government.  What was true of Wilmington, as a city proved true of North Carolina as a State.  Within a comparatively short time white supremacy again became a recognized and acknowledged fact.

This interesting chapter in Wilmington’s development has been recorded as an historical fact.  Since the happening outlined above, the feeling between the races has been friendly and cooperative.  The Negroes have been given the advantages of good schools, and the same benefits from health and fire protection, etc., as have been accorded the whites,  despite the fact that probably as much as 95 per cent of the general tax levies are paid by the white race.  Leaders of the white element are interested in the progress and advancement of the Negroes of the community and never turn a deaf ear to any worth suggestion or appeal of the colored citizens.

No better conclusion to this brief history of the Wilmington Race Revolution can be offered than to relate an incident which illustrated the humanness and fidelity of the leadership of Colonel Roger Moore.  During the afternoon of the riot, November 10th, several of the “scalawag” white leaders of the Negroes, were captured.  They were placed in jail overnight, prior to their planned banishment from the city. Several hundred enraged white citizens gathered in front of the jail, as darkness approached.  Threats of lynching the prisoners were freely made. 

It appeared as if trouble was brewing and that it was imminent.

Colonel Waddell, who had been chosen Mayor, went to the home of Colonel Moore in the early evening of November 10th.  He advised Colonel Moore that threats of lynching had been heard.  He indicated that it would be ruinous for his administration, if any such untoward event occurred.  Colonel Waddell told Colonel Moore that the latter was being appealed to, as the only man in Wilmington who could control the crowd and prevent them from taking possible action, which later might constitute a blot on the man of the city.  Colonel Waddell entreated Colonel Moore to go to the jail, to control the crowd and to prevent hasty or violent action.

Colonel Moore had gotten no sleep for a period of forty-eight hours, having been on duty continuously as Commander of the citizens protective units.  Nevertheless, he told the Mayor that if he could help, his attitude still was to prevent the citizenship from killing men who were already in custody of the law.

Adhering to his promise, Colonel Moore immediately left his home, went to the jail, and took his position, standing with his back to the door.  There he remained throughout the entire night.  He told the crowd that the imprisoned men were entitled to protection and would receive it, since an aroused citizenship had already secured control of municipal affairs.  He said it would be a disgraceful reflection, not only upon the participants but upon the city itself, if anything happened to the prisoners, since they, already, were in custody and would be dealt with properly.

Every persuasive and argumentative effort was put forth to have Colonel Moore leave the jail.  The men in the crowd were aware of the fact that if he left, they could carry out their plans; that, however, if he remained, they would have to kill him before an entrance to the jail could be forced.   Colonel Moore thoroughly understood what the men had in mind, and also, what would happen if he returned to his home.  For these reasons, he told the crowd frankly and positively that he intended to hold his post at the jail door, throughout the night.  He said the only way they would enter the jail, would be after they might have forcibly removed him fro his position.  Colonel Moore held the unbounded confidence and esteem of the citizenship as a whole and as results proved, he demonstrated the fact that he was the one man, as selected by the Mayor, who could handle the situation.  His sound counsel and positive attitude prevailed and the assembled crowd dispersed in the early morning hours, leaving Colonel Moore still at his post at the jail door, and the prisoners within the jail, terrified but unharmed.

Under the change of administration from the Republican radical regime, which antedated Nov. 10th, 1898, to a dependable, conservative, progressive white man’s government, the permanent form of control until succeeding elections, properly held, was under the following capable Board of Aldermen, serving with the Mayor--- John H. Hanby, Chas. H. Ganzer, James W. Kramer, Henry P. West, Wm. H. Sprunt, Hugh MacRae, J. A. Taylor, P. L. Bridges, C. W. Worth, A. B. Skelding, B. F. King, F. A. Montgomery, and C. L. Spencer.  Josh T. James was chosen City Clerk and Treasurer; Col. Thos. W. Strange, City Attorney, Jos. H. McRee, City Surveyor, and E.G. Parmele, Chief of Police."


Alfred Moore Waddell’s Story of the Wilmington Race Riots:

"The recent revolution which resulted in the reformation of the city government was occasioned by municipal misrule and the dictatorship of Governor Russell…Trouble was brewing for months.  Before the election, the city, which, was in the power of the Fusionists, was practically without a charter or effective government, and was dominated by Negroes and Negro sympathizers….

White women found it unsafe to walk through the streets in daytime without an escort.  They were insulted and elbowed into the gutter by Negro women and men.  Children going to school were abused…

On the day following the election the prominent Democratic citizens banded together and determined to act.  The Fusionist officials in power “resigned,” and the revolutionary government assumed control…

Immediately the revolutionists in power proceeded to make it warm for Negro-rule leaders and sympathizers.  Objectionable Fusionists were given to understand that they had become decidedly persona non grata in Wilmington…

There was (but is no more) in the city of Wilmington an “Afro-American” newspaper called the “Record” published by a mulatto named A.L. Manly…Proposals were made to lynch Manly.

When the revolutionary government took charge, Editor Manly was expelled from the city…The feeling against Governor Russell is very bitter.  The Negroes are dubbed generally “Russell’s savages.”

(Raleigh News & Observer, November 27, 1898.)

Handbill From Waddell's Postwar Address To the Colored People of Wilmington,

July 26, 1865


James Sprunt: The Revolution of 1898:

“The year 1898 marked an epoch in the history of North Carolina and especially of the city of Wilmington. Long continued evils, borne by the community with a patience that seems incredible, and which it is no part of my purpose to describe, culminated, on the 10th day on November, in a radical revolution, accompanied by bloodshed and a thorough reorganization, of social and political conditions.  It is commonly referred to as the Wilmington Riot, and legally and technically it may be properly so termed, but not in the usual sense of disorderly mob violence, for, as was said by an army officer who was present and witnessed it, it was the quietest and most orderly riot he had ever seen or heard of.  A Negro printing office was destroyed by a procession of perfectly sober men, but no person was injured until a Negro deliberately and without provocation shot a white man, while others, armed and defiant, occupied the streets, and the result was that about twenty of them were killed and the rest scattered.  It constituted an interesting chapter in the public history of the country, and therefore I will not enlarge upon it further than to say that it was the spontaneous and unanimous act of all the white people, and it was prompted solely by an overwhelming sense of its absolute necessity in behalf of civilization and decency.

Conditions at Wilmington were somewhat similar to those described by Woodrow Wilson in his History of the American People as existing in the South in Reconstruction days:

 “Adventurers swarmed out of the North, as much the enemies of one race as the other, to cozen, beguile and use the Negro.  The white men were aroused by a mere instinct of self-preservation.”

The city government had long been controlled by partisans dependent upon the Negro vote and was not at all responsive to enlightened opinion.  The ills attending that deplorable condition had operated to check enterprise, arrest development and produce stagnation.  The city had ceased to make industrial and commercial progress.  Whatever increase there was in the number of inhabitants was mainly due to the influx of indolent and undesirable Negroes, whose attitude towards the whites had become unbearable.  Hope of better days had almost faded away when a vile publication in a Negro newspaper aroused the whites to action and determined them to rid the city of the pests that had been a menace to its peace and an incubus on its prosperity. It was resolved to purge the city and to displace the inefficient government.

At 11 o’clock on Wednesday, November 9, a remarkable meeting of the leading citizens was held at the courthouse, at which Col. A.M. Waddell, chairman of the meeting, under resolutions adopted, appointed a committee composed of twenty-five of the prominent business men of the city to adopt measures to carry out the purpose of the meeting.


Col. Alfred Moore Waddell

It was demanded that the offending Negro editor leave the city within twenty-four hours, never to return, and that the press on which his paper was published be shipped away. A number of Negro ministers and other reputable members of the race were asked to use their influence to see that these demands were met peaceably and to respond within a given time. Owing to the failure on the part of a Negro to deliver the reply within the specified time, the white citizens, after waiting far beyond the appointed hour, marched to the office of the paper and destroyed the printing press and other equipment.  By accident and not by intention, fire resulted, and the building was destroyed to the regret of the white people. Bloodshed, as Colonel Waddell stated in the foregoing quotation from his “Memories”, was begun by the Negroes, it being the purpose of the white people to avoid all bloodshed and needless violence.

On the evening of the day of this revolution, the mayor and board of aldermen then in charge of the city of Wilmington resigned, and their successors were nominated and elected. Thus there was an entire change in the city government, and the order of things then instituted has continued uninterrupted ever since.  The effect of the change upon the prosperity of Wilmington was most happy, and the city then took a start in progress which has never ceased.

It was only under stern necessity that the action of the white people was taken, and while some of the incidents were deplored by the whites generally, yet when we consider the peaceable and amicably relations that have since existed, the good government established and maintained, and the prosperous, happy conditions that have marked the succeeding years, we realize that the results of the Revolution of 1898 have indeed been a blessing to the community.”

(Chronicles of the Cape Fear, James Sprunt, Edwards & Broughton, 1916)


The White Supremacy Campaign: Josephus Daniels

(from Editor In Politics, Josephus Daniel, UNC Press, 1941. pp. 299-312)

The White Supremacy Convention:

Toward he end of October, while the Democrats were more vigilant and organized, it was apparent that the opposition was straining every nerve, and that something must be done to defeat the Fusionists. In Democratic headquarters it was debated how the miasma of the corruptions and the ills of Negro rule could be brought home to the people of the whole State in such an impressive way as to utterly rout the Fusionists. It was felt by all that some supreme thing must be done. Jarvis, Aycock, Glenn and pretty much all the leaders first and last conferred with Chairman Simmons about the situation.

It was determined to ask the people of all Eastern North Carolina to come together at Goldsboro to declare the conditions that existed in the East and to make an appeal to the whole State, somewhat like that made in 1876 to the Center and the West to come to the rescue of the Eastern brethren. It was well understood that such a meeting would primarily stir the East to a more militant attitude for its own preservation. The result of these conferences was the calling of a White Supremacy Convention in Goldsboro.  To show the temper of the meeting, after Chairman Simmons opened it with the statement of the serious situation in North Carolina and the necessity for a more vigorous action in order to rout Negro rule, Major William A, Guthrie of Durham, who had been the Populist candidate for Governor in 1896, was made temporary chairman, in order to rob the meeting of any semblance of being a purely Democratic rally.

Major Guthrie called upon the Reverend N.M. Jurney, a Methodist preacher who gave as much of his time to politics as to preaching, to pray, and his prayer partook of he feeling of the times.  “Let us feel this day,” he prayed to the Lord, “the vibrations of our coming redemption from all wicked rule and the supremacy of the race destined not only to rule this country, but to carry the gospel to all nations and maintain civil and religious liberty throughout the world.”  Then he added the petition that “there will be no riot or bloodshed.”

Major Guthrie began his address by reading from the Scripture, and he compared the present situation with the period when the Hebrews were in subjection.  He declared that the present conditions in North Carolina had been brought about by the uniting of one hundred twenty thousand Negroes and thirty thousand white men at whose bidding these one hundred twenty thousand Negroes go to the polls in a solid phalanx and cast their ballots.”  He praised the thirty-two thousand honest Populists who had voted for him for Governor in 1896 and severely chastised “those five-thousand renegades who under the leadership of a few traitors of heir party and their principles had gone out and voted for the Republican governor and thereby helped to saddle Negro domination on the good old State.”  This, mind you, from a Populist who had been a Republican since 1868 up to the time he joined the Populist party.

Colonel Alfred Moore Waddell’s speech, which was in line with Guthrie’s---they were the high-water marks of the convention---was mainly devoted to vivid word pictures of conditions in Wilmington.  He detailed the intolerable conditions which compelled even ministers of the Gospel to patrol the streets at night to protect their homes. “We are going,” declared Waddell, to protect our firesides and our loved ones or we will die in the attempt, and I don’t say that for the purpose of winding up in an oratorical flight. That determination is in the minds of the white men of Wilmington and we intend to carry it out.”

He declared that the Wilmington people would drive out the Manleys and the Russells and the horde of corruptionists ‘if they have to throw enough dead Negro bodies in the Cape Fear to choke up its passage to the sea.” In ordinary times Waddell was one of the most graceful and classical of speakers, but on that day he was an American Robespierre, as indeed he had been in the early seventies when he redeemed the Wilmington district and was elected to Congress.  He was the sort of man who in political revolutions and in war came to the front by sheer audacity and courage. But when things were moving quietly and smoothly, he was to be found in his library reading, and seemed more or less a dilettante. It required conditions such as existed in 1898 to bring him to the front. His speech electrified the Convention. Portions of it were printed and sent all over the State.  His defiant utterances were quoted by speakers on every stump.  The cause of Wilmington became the cause of all.

The resolutions adopted by the eight thousand men focused into a brief space the spirit of the white supremacy movement. Nobody in the meeting mentioned the Democratic party; in fact, during the last days of the campaign, the White Supremacy Party was the term employed by all speakers who were fighting the Fusionists. The resolutions, which better than any other expression epitomized the conditions, were, in part, as follows:

“That as a consequence of turning these local offices over to the Negroes, bad government had followed, homes have been invaded and the sanctity of woman endangered, business has been paralyzed and property rendered less valuable, the majesty of the law has been disregarded and lawlessness encouraged…We have contemplated no violence but we are determined to use all proper means to free ourselves of this Negro domination which is paralyzing our business and hangs like a cloud over our homes…It is not our purpose to do the Negro any harm.  It is better for him as well as for us if the white man shall govern and while we propose to protect and encourage him in all his rights and duties of citizenship, we affirm that North Carolina shall not be Negroized.  It is of all the States of the union particularly the home of the Anglo-Saxon, and the Anglo-Saxon shall govern it.”

At that time the threat of federal troops being sent into the State was hanging over the people and the resolutions went on to say “No such conditions exist in the State as to justify Senator Pritchard in calling upon the President to send troops to the State or the governor in issuing his brutal proclamation.”

After that conference, the only fear was that federal troops would be ordered into the main centers. The Fusionists were depending upon that help, and the white supremacy advocates feared it, not so much for what the troops would do but because the people were so wrought up that they feared bloodshed would follow. On October 25, The News & Observer printed from Washington under headlines, “To Invoke Bayonet Rule,” the story of the discussion in the Cabinet of the request of Russell and Pritchard to have federal troops sent into North Carolina to control the election. Attorney General Griggs was reported strongly denouncing the situation in North Carolina and ready to send troops if it should be found necessary.

About that time there was printed a story in Washington, which The News & Observer called Pritchard’s “ghost story,” to the effect that the life of Governor Russell was threatened and race riots in the State were imminent.  Russell issued a vigorous proclamation against the Red Shirts, but it was very clear and was made clear to Pritchard, Russell, Butler and the rest that the coming of troops would not avail their party; that the white heat that dominated the white supremacy leaders and the rank and file of the people was such that it would have taken Grant’s Army to have held them back; and that, instead of strengthening their position, it would have routed the Fusionists except in places where the troops were able to take charge of the polls.

Jennet’s cartoon on Russell followed a Davenport idea. Whenever (national Republican party boss) Mark Hanna appeared in Davenport’s cartoons he wore loud clothes with big checks and every check was a dollar mark. Every time Jennett drew a cartoon of big-jowled Russell he gave him the same checks that had been given to Hanna, but instead of dollar marks he drew a repulsive, very black, kinky-headed Negro. It was horrible-looking and Russell raved every time he saw it. I never blamed him. It advertised the fact that it was a white supremacy campaign which was being waged and that its main objective was the getting rid of the big Negro vote.

Russell was in terror for his life. He feared he might be assassinated. Returning from Wilmington on the night of election day, he was jeered and made sport of and ridiculed and denounced by a crowd assembled at Maxton. The conductor knew that a little later, when the train came into Hamlet, there would be a crowd there, for Hamlet was the center of southern North Carolina and South Carolinians would come over to get the news. The South Carolinians, having participated in Red Shirt parades, thought they had as much to do with the election as the North Carolinians. In fact, not a few of them naturalized themselves for a few days in order to vote, which swelled the majorities in the counties bordering on their State. Knowing all this, the railroad people feared that when Russell reached Hamlet some violence would be done him. It was therefore suggested to Russell that, instead of riding in the regular car en route to Raleigh, he take a seat in the express car or baggage car and remain there while the train was shifting and the passengers were getting supper in Hamlet.

He was glad to do this and to pass through the funnel of Red Shirts without being seen. When the train reached Hamlet, the people, having heard Russell was on the train, surrounded it. “Where is Russell? Where is the Governor? Bring him out! Let us get a look at him!” All sorts of uncomplimentary expressions were heard, and undoubtedly if he had been visible he would have been subjected to more severe treatment than he had received at Maxton. Railroad men feared he might receive personal injury, and if he had resented the jeers of the crowd, such might have happened. All the cool-headed people were glad that the railroad men had smuggled him through the town. He reached Raleigh in safety. He was very glad a little later to get out of office, unwept, unhonored and unsung.


The most exciting event after the Goldsboro meeting was the issuing of a bench warrant by Justice W.A. Montgomery of the Supreme Court for the arrest of Captain Buck Kitchin, of Halifax, his son, his son-in-law, and three of his close friends. This warrant was issued at the request of Republican State Chairman Holton upon the allegation of B.B. Steptoe, a Negro politician, who charged that Captain Kitchin and his party came to his house in the night, broke in, and with threats and guns forced him to resign as registrar. Captain Kitchin might be called the original advocate of white supremacy and the father of the expression and organization. I remember as a boy hearing him speak in he courthouse in Wilson. When nobody else could get an audience or stir the people, he could bring them to white heat, and the burden of his speech, from the early seventies until his death, was white supremacy. He believed that a white man in eastern North Carolina who wasn’t a Democrat was a traitor to his race, and he believed it so deeply and preached it so consistently that he thought suppression of the vote of Negroes was doing the Lord’s own service and that the methods should not be inquired into too carefully.

What Kitchin asserted, probably the bulk of the white people in the Second District and the Negro counties believed. They did not think the ignorant Negro had any right to vote and most of the Negroes were ignorant. Captain Kitchin was bold to rashness, open and frank in his advocacy for the suppression of the Negro vote and he had little patience with white associates who were not quite so willing to suppress the vote except by indirection. He believed if the white people were aroused, mobilized, and united, their mobilization would make the Negroes afraid to exercise their franchise.

So believing, with this long record and the leadership which he and his sons had in Halifax county, he and the other white men of the county were determined to wrest Halifax from the control of the Negroes. The fusionists had control of the machinery and Steptoe was a registrar, and it was charged that he was registering sixteen-year olds and dead Negroes.

Certainly he was very active in putting every Negro possible on the books. He came to Raleigh and laid before the State Republican chairman the situation in Halifax county and said unless something was done the Fusionists would be routed. He made an affidavit that on a certain night, led by Captain Kitchin, a half-dozen men had broken into his house and forced him to resign as registrar. Kitchin denied vigorously that he had ever gone to Steptoe’s house, as Steptoe alleged. Kitchin’s boldness and reputation for doing things in the open led most people to believe that Steptoe had charged Captain Kitchin with doing something which others had done and that the Republicans thought, if they could tag the crime on to Kitchin and his sons, who were the leaders of the white supremacy movement, it would be more effective.  However that may be, his arrest overshadowed everything else in the State for days and served to incite the white supremacy people to greater indignation than ever. They rallied around Kitchin and denounced his arrest as a high-handed case of Jeffryism.

Judge Montgomery, who had issued the warrant, lived in Warren county and had been a Democrat until he joined the Populist party. I remember the first time I heard him make a speech. It was at a Baptist State Convention in Raleigh. I went to the convention with that old Roman, John C. Scarborough. Montgomery, who was a Baptist and who had been disappointed in his political ambition, was making a speech. This was before he had joined the Populist party. He recited the religious proclivities of public officials in North Carolina and declared that while the Baptists outnumbered practically all other denominations, yet they were discriminated against when it came to recognition in high positions for which they were well qualified. He sought to arouse the Baptist State Convention to demand more offices for Baptists. Old John C. Scarborough, who despised demagoguery, sitting under the shadow of the sanctuary, grabbed me by the arm and said to me in a whisper of disgust, “They ought to put the damn son of a bitch out.”

His language was always so free from such expressions that I was astonished. It showed such indignation and such use of swear words as I never dreamed possible for him. I daresay it was the only time he ever used that word.

As soon as Montgomery issued the warrant, Captain Kitchin took the first train to Raleigh and demanded a hearing. He declared that the statement from Steptoe was a lie from beginning to end, that he had never visited his house or broken into it or made any threats. The papers took it up, and  Kitchin declared that Holton had gotten Steptoe to make the affidavit against him and that it was a conspiracy hatched out in order to furnish a pretext for bringing federal troops into the State. 

I shall never forget the tenseness in the Supreme Court room when the case came on to be heard. There came with him (Kitchin) from Halifax scores of men who were ready to stand by him to any extent. I didn’t see any guns but I have no doubt that in that court room there were plenty of them in hip pockets. The white supremacy leaders counseled Kitchin to restrain himself. Outside the court room, he denounced Montgomery and the whole crowd in such adjectives as Billy Sunday never dreamed of, but when the case came to be heard his evidence and that of those with him and his alibis were so clear and so perfect that the case fell down utterly, with the result that it was another nail in the coffin of the Fusion campaign.

After the charges against Kitchin and his associates were dismissed, Steptoe disappeared utterly as if the earth had swallowed him up. HE did not go back to Halifax county. It probably would not have been safe fro him. Every attempt to locate him failed. Afterwards I learned that he had spent all these days and nights within a square of my home in Raleigh. He never left the house in the daytime and was closely guarded and protected by his colored friends, who feared for his life. A colored neighbor of mine told me afterwards where Steptoe spent those days and said he had advised him that he would be safer in the square adjoining my house than any other place in North Carolina; that nobody would expect to find him there; and that if any trouble came, he knew I would do everything to protect his life. 

Everybody approached election day with nervousness and anxiety. It was well known that the Negro vote would be small in some counties, but there was deep anxiety lest race riots or trouble at the polls should mar the day. As a matter of fact, however, while there was tension at the polls, there was no violence. At some place in the black districts, guns were fired and the white supremacy people surrounded the polls in great numbers. They were directed to be there early and late. In the places where the Negro vote was large, the impression prevailed among the Negroes that it was not safe for them to make any show of resistance. Many of them did not go to the polls to vote. Some of the quiet ones told their neighbors that Russell and his crew had betrayed the Negroes and it wasn’t worth risking their lives to keep in a crew that was ashamed of them and would not stand up for them. On the night before election day all the salons were closed at seven o’clock and were compelled to remain closed until five o’clock on the morning after the election.

The election resulted in a sweeping Democratic victory. Two-thirds of the Legislature was Democratic and there was a twenty-five-thousand majority for the ticket. With great enthusiasm old-time celebrations were carried on all over North Carolina.

Violence in Wilmington:

As an aftermath of the celebration and the only place where there was violence, Wilmington had a day of blood. The white supremacy people determined to expel Manley from the city, and to set fire to his building and burn it as lasting evidence that no vestige of he Negro who had defamed white women of the State should be left. His building was gutted and burned but Manley escaped. How the eleven Negroes were killed, how three whites were wounded, and how the riot began, there was never any well authenticated evidence. The white supremacy people declared that the Negroes precipitated the riot by firing on the white men. If that is a true statement, they did not fire until four hundred armed whites led by Colonel Waddell marched to The Record office to destroy it. Some of the papers said it caught fire in an unaccountable way, evidently meaning that nobody knew who applied the torch. The probabilities are that many applied the torch. In fact, it was an armed revolution of white men of Wilmington to teach what they believed was a needed lesson, that no such defamer as Manley should live in the city and no such paper should be published.

The News & Observer said, referring to the revolution and conduct of the white people, “If any reader is inclined to condemn the people of Wilmington for resolving to expel Manley from the city, let him reread the libel upon the white women of the State that appeared in the Daily Record.”  Six companies of militia were ordered to Wilmington at the request of Lieutenant Colonel Walker Taylor. After the burning of Manley’s building, the board of aldermen resigned and the city came under the control of a white supremacy government with Alfred Moore Waddell as Mayor. As soon as he emerged from the position of private citizen to public official, Colonel Waddell’s fiery spirit changed and he became the protector of peace and order. He put guards around the jails to protect Negro prisoners and declared that no more violence should be tolerated. It was the end of violence and the end of trouble.  The result of the election was accepted. The politically-minded Negroes either returned to their work or left the city, and quiet, industrious Negroes who had all along been made he tools of white and colored leaders, rejoiced that the end had come. Colonel Waddell even went so far as to warn unruly whites that no disorder would be tolerated.

On November 11, almost immediately after the election, the Wilmington people determined to be rid of the men who had conducted a government bordering on anarchy. They---the Cape Fear Vigilantes, though they did not give themselves that name---gave notice, after eleven Negroes had been killed and nine Negroes and nine white men wounded, that the men who had been responsible for the bad government and race troubles should leave the city. Among these was G.Z. (Gizzard) French, white carpet-bagger, who had been State Senator, the author of the law that put Wilmington government under the rule of the Negroes and their allies. He and the others were escorted to the train by a squad of white militia with fixed bayonets. It was believed that French went to Washington. Before he reached the station a rope was thrown over his head and several men were hanging him to a beam, when influential citizens, led by Frank H. Stedman, a white supremacy leader, interfered and saved his life. Carter Beaman, colored, went to South Carolina; Tom Miller, Pickens Bell, Aaron Bryant and Rev. I.J. Bell were put on the train and told never to return. This was done by soldiers.

They also ran out of town Trial Justice R.H. Bunting, ex-Chief of Police John R. Melton, Charles McAllister, Isaac Loftin, colored, and an ex-policeman. These men went to New Bern but were not allowed to remain there and had to move on. Bunting was said to have lived with a Negro woman for many years. His paramour and several other Negro women who had been talking too much were ordered to leave town. Loftin and McAllister had sold firearms to the Negroes. R.B. Reardon and W.E. Henderson, Negroes, fled before being run out of town. Some of them who were driven out of Wilmington located at Richmond and the Richmond authorities notified them that they were not wanted.

The only way they could get into another town was to changed their names.

Manley was said to have gone to New Bern but could not be found there. He seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth, but later the Washington Star published an interview with a man claiming to be Manley, who denounced the Wilmington people and the people of North Carolina in vigorous terms. It probably was Manley. It was later printed that Manley intended to establish his Record in New York. In December, William L. Jeffries, associate editor of the Record, made application for a place in the Hall of Infamy by claiming that he wrote the famous editorial about white women of the State and that Manley did not write it.

There were many aftermaths, among them the Negroes denounced John C. Dancy, a Negro collector of the customs at Wilmington, because he had denounced the extreme conduct of members of his race. Parson Leak of Raleigh advised the Negroes to stay out of politics and to ally themselves with good white people. He declared himself in favor of the disenfranchisement of all illiterate Negroes and favored the Jim Crow car law. He blamed Russell for the Wilmington trouble and the other ills, which had brought on race bitterness.

As a result of the white supremacy feeling, the corporation commissioners were asked to issue an order compelling railroads to have separate cars for whites and Negroes. This brought protests from all the railroads. They said it would impose a heavy burden upon them and there was no need of compelling them to carry additional cars. The Railroad Commission refused to order Jim Crow cars. Agitation was begun to compel the Legislature to do so, and when it met it did order separate cars for the races and required the Commission to see to it that equal service was afforded to whites and Negroes on the trains.

As soon as it was clear that the Democrats had won, there were many suggestions that some public position should be given to me because of service rendered during the campaign. In reply to these suggestions in the press, some editors suggesting one position and some another, I printed a statement in The News & Observer saying that the editor of The News & Observer would not be a candidate for any position in the gift of a party and added:

“The editor of the News & Observer has never had but one ambition, and that is to publish a strong and useful, influential newspaper free to condemn the wrong and uphold the right. The only public positions he has held in the past were accepted at times when the income was necessary to pay the expenses of his newspaper and the pay received there-from was devoted to that purpose. He congratulates himself that the income from The News & Observer is now sufficient to make office-holding, distasteful to him under any circumstances, not necessary.”

Following the white supremacy victory, there were celebrations all over the State, but the big State celebration was staged in Raleigh. A meeting was held there to arrange for the celebration, at which I presided; and at that meeting a motion was made to thank The News & Observer for its leadership in the fight. I said that this ought to include all Democratic papers, but the meeting unanimously overruled the chair and the motion was unanimously adopted, with a shout of approval after Norman Jennett, the clever cartoonist, had been included. Some of the older people deprecated the holding of a big celebration, fearing it might result in trouble, but The News & Observer took the ground that the celebration meant no harm to the Negroes; that the Democrats were their friends and not enemies; and that the speeches made and the whole celebration would serve to bring about a kindly feeling between the races. However, there was much apprehension lest the conservative people could not keep the celebration in hand. Shouting Democrats came from all parts of the State, a few of them wearing red shirts, and hey were welcomed at The News & Observer office. Its building was illuminated and decorated with brooms, emblematic of the sweeping victory, and with a rooster in electric lights. I presided at the meeting and speeches were made by distinguished men. The speaking was held in Nash Square, and by arrangement certain speakers were to address the marching crowd at various points as they passed in the procession.  

During the speaking, quite a company of young men marched to the Blind Institution. They took with them a skilled stone mason and cut off the name of Jim Young, Negro leader, from the cornerstone of the institution. During the campaign his activities on this board had been denounced and speakers had declared in the heat of the campaign that when the Democrats came into power the last vestige of Negro direction of white institutions should be ended., and that they would erase the name of Young from the cornerstone of the Blind Institution. Outside of that act, nothing was done at the celebration that indicated bitterness.

A day or two after the election, the Negro State Fair was held in Raleigh.  The Negro manager had invited Governor Russell to open the fair, but he declined the invitation. On the morning of the opening of the fair, Parson Leak, Methodist preacher who had been a Republican leader in 1894 and 1896, but who had broken with Jim Young and the other Negro leaders in 1898, came by and asked me to make a speech opening the fair. I told the parson that in view of my activity in the white supremacy campaign, I felt that the Negroes might not relish my addressing them.

“On the contrary,” he said, “this old rascal who is up in the Governor’s mansion, who has gotten everything he has from Negroes, has been ungrateful. They have no respect for him. They know that at heart you are their friend and they need somebody who was a leader of the white supremacy campaign to give them assurance of friendship and protection. You are the very man they want.”

And so I went out and opened the Negro Fair. The Negroes had assembled in great numbers. I tried to voice to them the genuine friendship which the leaders of white supremacy felt for them and pointed out that it was a campaign not directed at the law-abiding and industrious Negro, but at the Negro slave-drivers of which Russell was at the head, and assured them that the day of election for them was really a day of emancipation from corrupt party leaders.

The Negro leaders followed---Professor Bruce, of Shaw University, and John C. Dancy, collector of customs at Wilmington, and other wise Negroes---and counseled peace and acceptance of the situation, so that in a few days the State was as quiet as if there had never been a heated campaign.

Email: editor@1898wilmington.hypermart.net