The White Declaration Of Independence: When White Supremacists Overthrew The Democratically Elected Government Of Wilmington, North Carolina

By | July 1, 2020

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In 1898, white supremacists permanently scarred the community of Wilmington, North Carolina by stoking anger and resentment among the white citizens of this formerly affluent black townAfter creating the "White Declaration of Independence," the hate group attacked black people in the media, at the polls, and finally, in the streets. Even after they turned Wilmington into a haven for white supremacists, though, the job wasn't done. White scholars and historians covered up the political games played to oust black politicians and blamed the violence on those who suffered from it the most. The real story has only recently come to light.

A Bustling Black Metropolis

In 1898, Wilmington, North Carolina had a prosperous majority-black population. Four years earlier, the Republican Party and the burgeoning Populist movement came together to form the aptly named "Fusion Party," and this new racially diverse party defeated establishment politicians (many of them white supremacists, who comprised the Democratic Party at the time) across the board in the next two state and local elections. They weren't happy about it.

White supremacists harnessed the media to turn black men into monsters

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The Horrific Plan

In response to the crushing defeat, Democratic Party leaders like Furnifold Simmons, Charles Aycock, and Alfred Moore Waddell put their heads together and hatched a plan to lure populist voters away from the Fusion Party and towards the Democrats. The Democratic Handbook of 1898 laid out the group's plan to regain the white vote by "stoking white anger and resentment," which is essentially what white supremacists have been doing ever since. To that end, they used the local paper The News and Observer to run a wide series of political cartoons that depicted black men as monsters who only existed to attack white women and take people's jobs and warned readers of the threat of "negro rule," even though most Fusion leaders were white.