1898 Wilmington Race Riot

What Constitutes Negro Domination?

Another term from 1898 as common as "White Supremacy," is "Negro Domination." As in the case of the former, one needs to read contemporary accounts relating to the use of the term, and what it then meant. Governor Russell and his allies offer the best interpretation, and elaborate on why the Republican party was in trouble in the 1890's as it depended upon the black electorate for its grassroots support, and candidates---and dispensed the all-important patronage to black stalwarts.

The Taxpayers And Governor Russell

Republican Corruption and the Black Electorate:

"The Republican party in all the Negro belt is weaker today than it has ever been since the day of its birth on Southern soil. It is hard to find one young white man of ability and promise who admits himself to be a Republican. Many of the best federal offices have been given to colored men, although it might have been simple justice to recognize all elements in the distribution of party rewards, the administration has been misled by unscrupulous politicians into appointing black men whose conduct makes them offensive to the white people of their communities. Until recently…the colored people have been disposed to invite the leadership of respectable white men. But now, the tendency is towards the elevation of the most corrupt Negro element to control of the party in the black counties.. In places the GOP was nothing more than a Negro party and "there is scarcely a precinct in the black belt where you can find active white Republicans enough to obtain even the semblance of a fair election.
Our adherence to the fundamental principles of Republicanism cannot be weakened by the conduct of corrupt and venal upstarts who want to keep honest white men out of the party."
(Raleigh Signal, April 7, 1892, Address of Leading White Republicans, D.L. Russell & George W. Stanton)

Black Congressman George H. White on What Constitutes

"Negro Domination"

"It is claimed that in States, districts, and counties in which the colored people are in the majority, the suppression of the colored vote is necessary to prevent "Negro Domination,"---to prevent the ascendancy of the blacks over the whites in the administration of the State and local governments. This claim is based upon the assumption that if the black vote were not suppressed in all such States, districts and counties, black men would be supported and elected to office because they were black, and white men would be opposed and defeated because they were white.

George H. White

And this brings us to a consideration of the question, What is meant by "Negro Domination?" The answer that the average reader would give to that question would be that it means the actual, physical domination of the blacks over the whites. But, according to a high Democratic authority, that would be an incorrect answer. The definition given by that authority I have every reason to believe is the correct one, the generally accepted one. The authority referred to is the late Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Mississippi, H.H. Chalmers, who, in an article in the North American Review about March, 1881, explained and defines what is meant or understood by the term "Negro Domination."

According to Justice Chalmer's definition, in order to constitute "Negro Domination" it does not necessarily follow that Negroes must be elected to office, but that in all elections in which white men may be divided, if the Negro vote should be sufficiently decisive to be potential in determining the result, the white man or men that would be elected through the aid of Negro votes would represent "Negro Domination." In other words, we would have "Negro Domination" whenever the will of the majority of whites would be defeated through the votes of colored men. If this is the correct definition of that term---and it is, no doubt the generally accepted one---then the friends and advocates of manhood suffrage will not deny that we have had in the past "Negro Domination," nationally as well as locally, and that we may have it in the future.

In this connection it cannot and will not be denied that he colored vote has been decisive and potential in very many important national as well as local and State elections. For instance, in the presidential election of 1868, General Grant, the Republican candidate, lost the important and pivotal State of New York, a loss, which would have resulted in his defeat if the Southern States that took part in that election had all voted against him. That they did not do so was due to the votes of the colored men in those States. Therefore, Grant's first administration represented "Negro Domination."

Henry P. Cheatham

Again in 1876, Hayes was declared elected president by a majority of one vote in the Electoral College. This was made possible by the result of the election in the States of Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida, about which there was much doubt and considerable dispute, and over which there was a bitter controversy. But for the colored vote in those States there would have been no doubt, no dispute, no controversy. The defeat of Mr. Hayes and the election of Mr. Tilden would have been an undisputed and an uncontested fact. Therefore, the Hayes administration represented "Negro Domination."

Again, in 1880, General Garfield, the Republican candidate for president, carried the State of New York by a plurality of about 20,000, without which he could not have been elected. It will not be denied by those who are well informed that if the colored men that voted for him in that State at that time had voted against him, he would have lost the State and with it, the presidency. Therefore, the Garfield-Arthur administration represented "Negro Domination."
(The Facts of Reconstruction, John R. Lynch, Former Member of Congress from Mississippi, The Neale Publishing Company, 1914, Chapter IX (excerpt, pages 92-97)

James Hunter Young

A Former Republican on Negro Domination:
(Guthrie, Populist gubernatorial candidate in 1896, addresses White Supremacy Convention in Greensboro, 1898.)
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.
(from Editor in Politics, Josephus Daniel, UNC Press, 1941. Page 300)

"Negro Domination"
(From the History of the General Assembly of North Carolina, January 9---March 13, 1895, Inclusive, page 63. E.M. Uzzell, Printer and Binder, Raleigh, N.C., 1895)

Thoughtful Democrats who have looked beyond the present moment and who have preferred to bear such party ills as they had, if such there were, rather than fly to others they knew not of, predicted that the fusion with Republicans of any considerable number of those who were formerly Democrats meant Republican domination, and that Republican domination meant, in one form or another, Negro domination. The Douglas incident reveals the animus of that party and is a menace of its aims. (After the official declaration of the Fusionists, the General Assembly did not adjourn in honor of the birthday of Robert E. Lee, a legal holiday, but did adjourn out of respect for the memory of Frederick Douglas.)

A Northern's Opinion of "Negro Domination"::

"While a member of this Congress, I gained the friendship of Congressman Frank Wheeler of Bay City, Michigan. He was a man of wealth and a shipbuilder in northern Michigan.

Mr. Wheeler once asked me if I knew of any large tract of timber land in North Carolina that he could purchase. I told him of the Green Swamp tract of about two hundred thousand acres in Brunswick and Columbus counties, not far from Wilmington. He came down South with me on one of the week-ends, and I bought for him the Green Swamp land from John J. Wolfenden, of New Bern, North Carolina.

While in Wilmington, we spent a night night at my summer home on Wrightsville Beach. The next morning I sent for Henry Brewington, a Negro valet, to serve us at the cottage. While Henry was blacking our shoes I said to Wheeler, "This man, polishing your shoes, was once a Republican magistrate, and I have tried cases before him and always addressed him, "May it please your Honor."  Isn't that so Henry?" He replied, "Yes sir, and I always sided with Mr. Bellamy for he is a good man."

I said, "Wheeler, this same man was a member of the Legislature, a member of the Board of Aldermen, a Deputy Sheriff, and a member of the County Commissioners." "Well Bellamy," he said, "I am a Republican but I can't blame your people for ridding yourselves of ignorant Negro domination. If I lived  in the South, I would be as strong a Democrat as you are."

(Memoirs Of An Octagenarian, John D. Bellamy, Observer Printing House, 1942)

Sources and Recommended Reading:

Editor in Politics, Josephus Daniel, UNC Press, 1941.

History of the General Assembly of North Carolina, January 9---March 13, 1895, Inclusive, E.M. Uzzell, Printer and Binder, Raleigh, N.C., 1895)

Memoirs Of An Octagenarian, John D. Bellamy, Observer Printing House, 1942.

Facts of Reconstruction, John R. Lynch, Former Member of Congress from Mississippi, The Neale Publishing Company, 1914

Email: editor@1898wilmington.hypermart.net