1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission Established by General Assembly

A. L. Manly
A. L. Manly
Editor of Black-Owned
Daily Record

RALEIGH The events of November 10, 1898, in Wilmington constitute a turning point in North Carolina history. By force, a white mob seized the reins of government in the port city and, in so doing, destroyed the local black-owned newspaper office and terrorized the African American community. In the months thereafter, political upheaval resulted across the state and legal restrictions were placed on the right of blacks to vote. The era of "Jim Crow," one of legal segregation not to end until the 1960s, had begun.

In 2000, the General Assembly established the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission to develop a historical record of the event and to assess the economic impact of the riot on African Americans locally and across the region and state. Sponsoring the enabling legislation were two Wilmington legislators, Senator Luther H. Jordan, who died in April 2002, and Representative Thomas E. Wright, presently the group's chair.

Rep. Wright addressed the work of the commission and its importance: "The events of November 10, 1898, were an important part of North Carolina's and America's history. The significance of this time period needs to be accurately and historically documented. The charge to the commission by the North Carolina General Assembly will accomplish this goal and allow for vital dialogue."

A. M. Wadell
A. M. Waddell
Leader of
White Revolt

Professor Irving Joyner of North Carolina Central University is the vice-chair. The full board is composed of thirteen members, appointed by the legislature, the governor, mayor and city council of Wilmington, and New Hanover County Commission. The Department of Cultural Resources provides research and administrative assistance.

The centennial anniversary in 1998 of the Wilmington events brought renewed interest to the subject and attempts to fix its place in the state's history. Scholars, activists, and local citizens engaged in community meetings, seminars, and commemorative programs. The new commission seeks to build upon the earlier work. Public hearings are planned. Detailed analyses of the written record, both primary and secondary sources, will aid in assessing the economic impact. The commission is further charged with advising on the placement of a permanent monument dedicated to the 1898 racial violence.

Other states in recent years have engaged in similar studies. The race riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June 1921 and that in Rosewood, Florida, in January 1923 have been examined by legislatively authorized study commissions. Each body presented reports and recommendations. The new commission is scheduled to present its final report on the Wilmington events by December 31, 2005.


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