1898 Wilmington Race Riot

The Aftermath---Reports and Reflections on 1898:

"The Raleigh News & Observer hailed the violence as being absolutely necessary to save Wilmington from degradation. (12, 13 November 1898)

The Charlotte Observer...stated that although the situation in Wilmington was intolerable, the violence was regretful.

(16 November 1898)

The Wilmington Messenger hailed the heroic efforts of the city's white population in gaining liberation from black corruption and tyranny.

(13 November 1898)

The Winston Union-Republican, a Republican newspaper, questioned the motives of the Democrats...(and) If the purpose of the violence was to eject Manly and his press from the city, (the paper) contended that this step might have been taken earlier without violence."

(1 December 1898)

(McDuffie, page 777)

Order Restored In Wilmington:
"The new city government has thoroughly established law and order. Under Mayor Waddell's direction order has been brought out of chaos, and the military patrol is to be dispensed with Monday. Negroes who fled to the woods in droves Thursday, and have since been in hiding, are coming back to town, many of them in a famished condition. Many of them, however, are still leaving of their own accord. Ex-Mayor Wright left the city today. He bought a ticket to New York city and it is not believed that he will ever return. Others will follow.

The coroner's inquest was held over the dead bodies this morning…They found in their verdict that the deceased came to their death by gun-shot wounds at the hands of unknown parties. The new city government could not be a better one. It is headed by ex-Congressman Waddell. The Board of Aldermen is composed of the most prominent and wealthiest men in the city… Negro rule is at an end in North Carolina forever. The events of he past week in Wilmington and elsewhere place that fact beyond all question.
(Raleigh News & Observer, November 11, 1898.)

The Trial of Thomas Lane:

A trial was held on November 15, 1898, with Mayor Waddell presiding. The man on trial was Thomas Lane, a black man, accused of firing into the Wilmington Light Infantry from 411 Harnett Street, Manhattan Park, during the conflict in Brooklyn, in the northern part of Wilmington.

The principal witnesses for the prosecution were Capt. T.C. James of the WLI, a young black boy named S.T. Knight, and Hardy Nicholas, a black man who operated the Manhattan Park place.

Captain James told of the firing of the pistol shot into his company, of the raid upon the house, the arrest of Lane and three other black men and their committal to jail for safe keeping. The black youngster, Knight, testified that he was in the park when the trouble occurred; that he heard a pistol shot, saw Thomas Lane run around the house and throw his pistol under the building. At the same time Lane told Knight that he had "gotten one of the damned rascals." Meaning that he had killed one of the Light Infantry boys. However, he was mistaken in this as the ball did not hit anyone. Other black witnesses testified that Lane was the only black in that part of the premises from which the shot was fired.

The Star newspaper, owned and operated by Major Bernard, originally from the North, wrote the following: "Had not the Negro, Lane, fired into the military it would not have been necessary for them to have shot Josh Halsey, a Negro occupant of the place, who was killed as a sequel to Lane's fiendish effort to kill one of the members of the Light Infantry, who were on their way to disperse a mob gathering on Ninth Street.

Near the end of the trial, Mayor Waddell told the prisoner, Lane, that there was every evidence of his guilt and he would hold him in jail for the Criminal Court if it took a $1000. bond. A $500. was however more than he could give  and served the purpose. (Weekly Star, November 16, 1898)

(Strength Through Struggle, William Reaves, NHC Library, 1998, page 255)


Recollections of John D. Bellamy:

"The active participants, in the force called on to suppress the riot in Wilmington in November, 1898, and protect the citizens from the race clash before the military companies came, were Colonel Roger Moore, in charge of affairs, together with Colonel Alfred M. Waddell, Hugh MacRae, J. Allen Taylor, and others. They expelled from Wilmington all the objectionable characters that had become so offensive to our people. They actually took possession of our city government, causing, one by one, the sitting members to resign, and filling their places with Democrats, until an entire new board was obtained---naming Colonel Waddell, Mayor. The board consisted of  Colonel Waddell, Hugh MacRae, J. Allen Taylor, Henry P. West, and others who managed the city form that time under Democratic rule.

John D. Bellamy,

United States Congressman

Martial law was declared by the governor, and military companies from all sections of the State were sent here to prevent further disturbance.

Colonel Walker Taylor was put in command of the State Guard, the excitement subsided, the troops returned to their homes, and peace and order again reigned in the city.

The conditions of 1898 were very horrible and humiliating to our people. Nearly all the health officers in the City of Wilmington, whose duty it was to inspect the private homes and premises of our people were Negroes. Nearly all magistrates in the city and members of the board were Negroes. The mayor, who was a carpetbagger, Silas P. Wright, was afterwards expelled from the city! Such were the terrible conditions and humiliation to which the virtue and intelligence of our people were subjected and which were not ended until the riot of 1898.

The writer was elected to Congress on Tuesday in November, 1898, prior to the riot which took place on Friday. Being a United States Government officer by election, he had to refrain from any active participation in the affair; yet, thereafter the Republican Executive Committee of the State petitioned Congress not to let Mr. Bellamy take his seat in Congress because of the riot that took place in Wilmington, for which he was chiefly responsible!

This, of course, was an outrageous untruth.

(Memoirs Of An Octagenarian, John D. Bellamy, Observer Printing House, 1942, pp. 133-134)


Governor Aycock

Governor Aycock in 1904:
"…When I was elected Governor it was after the revolution of 1898. It was in the same campaign in which we advocated and adopted the Amendment to the Constitution. These two campaigns were the occasion of much bitterness. They gave rise to intense passion. They set the two races in the State in fearful antagonism. The adoption of the (1900 Suffrage) Amendment was a cause of great anxiety to our colored citizens…and in large measure cut them off from hope.
I, in common with most of the thoughtful citizens of the State, realized this feeling of theirs. We had made the fight for the Amendment in no enmity to the Negro, but for the sake of good government, peace and prosperity. When the fight had been won, I felt that the time had come when the Negro should be taught to realize that while he could not be permitted to govern the State, his rights should be held the more sacred by reason of his weakness. I knew that our own passions had been aroused and that we were in danger of going too far. I realized to the fullest the peril of antagonizing the dominant and prevailing thought in the State, and yet I believed that the people who had chosen me as Governor did so in the hope that I would be brave enough to sacrifice my own popularity---my future if need be---to the speaking of the rightful word and the doing of the generous act.

My position has brought satisfaction and even happiness to many humble homes in North Carolina, and the Negro, whose political control I have fought with so much earnestness, has turned to me with gratitude for my support of his right to a public school education.

(Governor Charles B. Aycock, Speech at Greensboro, June 23, 1904.)

The Republican Party in Disarray:
The Republican party was weakened in voting strength by the suffrage amendment of 1900 which required voters to pay a poll tax and be able to read and write any section of the Constitution. Convinced of the relative unimportance of the Negro vote after 1900 and of the stigma arising from the party's historic connection with the Negro, the "lily white" Republicans made their party a "white man's party" by excluding Negroes from party affairs and by ceasing to appeal; for their votes. But the party was still largely controlled by federal officeholders who were satisfied to control federal patronage in North Carolina which was at the disposal of the conservative Republican party, usually in control of the federal government prior to 1933.
(Lefler, page 532)

Blacks No Longer Welcome In The Republican Ranks:

When black leaders of the past looked to the Republican party, it looked away. Two black "best men," John Dancy, Collector of the port of Wilmington, and James H. Young, commander of the Third North Carolina regiment arrived at the State Republican Executive Committee's 1901 meeting. Both men had served previously on the committee and had shepherded votes and dispensed patronage across the State, but Senator Pritchard had failed to invite them to the meeting. When they arrived uninvited, he jumped up and locked them out of the room. Pritchard had declared the Republican party "lily white" and called upon all black federal officeholders to resign their posts at once. The next year, when duly-elected black delegates arrived at the 1902 convention, whites ejected them.
(Gilmore, page129)

Dancy then left North Carolina to become Washington, DC's Recorder of Deeds, an ascent that needed Pritchard's propulsion. He became an officer with the National Afro-American Council in Washington which met with President McKinley to express concern over the events in Wilmington and North Carolina.
(Gilmore, page 115)

The Negro State Fair, November, 1898:
A day or two after the (November, 1898) 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.
(Editor In Politics, Josephus Daniels, pp. 311-312.)

Sources and Recommended Reading:

The Life and Speeches of Charles B. Aycock, R.D.W. Conner & Clarence Poe

The History of a Southern State: North Carolina
Hugh Talmage Lefler & Albert Ray Newsome, UNC Press, 1954

Memoirs Of An Octagenarian, John D. Bellamy.

Observer Printing House, 1942

Gender and Jim Crow
Glenda Gilmore, UNC Press, 1996

Editor In Politics,
Josephus Daniels, UNC Press, 194

Email: editor@1898wilmington.hypermart.net