White Rage at Interracial Romance

by Mr. Sheehy

In the eighteen-nineties, a new political movement calling itself the Fusion Party—a multiracial group made up of white populists and radical Republicans, many of whom were black—was gaining power in North Carolina. Although much of the state was controlled by white supremacists, Wilmington had become a stronghold of Fusionist power. The wharves there had created work opportunities for free black people. After the Civil War, African-Americans in the city began to start businesses, own property, and win political office. In 1898, a local black newspaper editor, Alex Manly, published an editorial arguing that, as often as not, interracial relationships in the South were consensual. Democratic editors reprinted it over and over, for months, in newspapers friendly to the white-supremacist cause, deliberately fomenting a readiness for violent action among a large part of the state’s white citizenry.

On October 27th, Alfred Moore Waddell, a onetime Confederate colonel and a former U.S. congressman, whose career was in decline, gave a speech to hundreds of white supremacists from the stage at Thalian Hall, a big theatre downtown, advocating for a violent takeover. He declared that the whites of Wilmington would “have no more of the intolerable conditions under which we live,” and that they were “resolved to change them, if we have to choke the current of the Cape Fear with carcasses.” Two weeks later, on November 10th, Waddell went on to lead the takeover, marching at the front of a white-supremacist mob with a rifle over his shoulder. An unknown number of black people were murdered in daylight, and the progressive Republican city and county governments were overthrown. Some historians consider it the only successful political coup in American history.

from John Jeremiah Sullivan’s profile of Rhiannon Giddens

I’ve read a lot about the struggles between races, particularly about the way white men went bonkers at the suggestion of interracial relationships, but it is easy to get lost in generic statements. Each specific story helps solidify and confirm the reality.