Following Newspapers’ Lead, N.C. Dems May Apologize for 1898 Riots

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Last year, North Carolina’s two largest newspapers — The News & Observer of Raleigh and The Charlotte Observer — produced a 16-page special section last year to detail the Wilmington race riots more than 100 years ago, including an examination of the newspapers’ role in fanning white discontent in advance of the 1898 elections.

Now the executive committee of the North Carolina Democratic Party will consider a formal apology for the party’s role in the riots, Democratic leaders said.

The apology comes eight months after a state-appointed commission concluded that the insurrection, which was instigated by white supremacists affiliated with the Democratic Party, drove hundreds of black residents from Wilmington and killed dozens more in 1898.

It is the only recorded coup d’etat in U.S. history, the commission said.

“I think moving forward often requires a sober reflection on the past,” said Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Meek.

A draft resolution, which will be considered by party leaders Saturday, acknowledges and renounces the actions of past party leaders. The resolution also would establish a training program for minority and women political candidates.

“Any apology has to be backed by action,” said Cynthia Brown, whose grandmother told her about having to hide in a cemetery from white mobs in November 1898.

The Wilmington Race Riot Commission, created by lawmakers in 2000, recommended that the General Assembly provide economic and social reparations to families affected by the 1898 violence. Leaders at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People say they will push lawmakers for redress for those affected by the event.

The state commission concluded that the violence claimed as many as 60 lives, dismantled the local government, sparked an exodus of 2,100 black residents from Wilmington and helped usher in a new anti-black political era for the Jim Crow South.

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