Sunday, January 08, 2006

"When Democracy Died in Wilmington, N.C."

Brent Staples in the NY Times:

"A draft of a voluminous report commissioned by the North Carolina legislature has recently outlined a grotesquely violent and stridently racist version of state history that rivals anything ever seen in the most troubled parts of the Deep South. The report, by the Wilmington Race Riot Commission, has thrown a klieg light onto a coup and riot that were staged in Wilmington, N.C., in 1898 - and that still have an evident impact on the political landscape of the state.

The uprising was engineered by white supremacists who unseated a government that had been elected by an alliance that included black citizens and white progressives. Scores of black citizens were killed during the uprising - no one yet knows how many - and prominent blacks and whites were banished from the city under threat of death. White supremacists hijacked the state government, stripped black citizens of the right to vote and brought black political participation to a close.

The events outlined in the report provide a ready explanation for why black people in North Carolina remained politically docile for so long and why the civil rights movement was so slow to reach them. The speed with which the coup and the accompanying riot were papered over and swept from public awareness reminds us what a powerful force cultural amnesia can be in shaping how we see history." (more)


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