Wilmington’s Lie – REVIEW

Litercurious Book Review

TitleWilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of
1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy
AuthorDavid Zucchino
PublisherAtlantic Monthly Press (January 7, 2020)
FormatKindle, Audiobook
Pages626
LanguageEnglish
ASINB07YBK3S7V

“What happened in Wilmington became an affirmation of white supremacy not just in that one city, but in the South and in the nation as a whole.” Democracy Betrayed, The Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 and its Legacy (Chapel Hill, NC: university Press, 1998), 120-121 (2000), Edwards, L.. F.

AUTHOR

David Zucchino is a Journalist and author. He is a Pulitzer Prize winner and he was nominated on four previous occasions. He is known for his international war reports and his previous publications; Thunder Run and the Myth of the Welfare Queen, both of which are featured at the end of this review.

SYNOPSIS

Wilmington’s Lie is in essence the distillation of the chronology of events documenting the birth of white supremacy during the formative years of the Reconstruction era.

Zucchino posits that Wilmington in North Carolina (NC) in 1898 was the epicenter of the tragedy that became white prejudice, not just locally but nationally. Zucchino documents the corruption of the town’s establishments who together conspired to rig the voting system through violence. Subsequently a clan of like minded citizens formed into a lose association that we now identify as the Klu Klux Klan, Red Shirts, and Militia. These people then conspired together to commit murder against peaceful protesters and other members of their community.

Zucchino begins by explaining the tumultuous events that occurred on that Thursday, 10 November 1898 in the largest port city of NC.

Prior to the horrors that took place in Wilmington that day. The town had been a promising template for the advancement of Reconstruction. Those who were former vassal’s had managed to establish a healthy and thriving community. In the town those persons formerly enslaved and freemen were found in all strata of the economic spectrum from Drs to lawyers, Newspaper owners to journalists, even shop owners and journeymen. In a town of 10,000 black people were in the majority?

The initial promise of the Wilmington model, however, was about to be derailed.

The span of the publication goes far beyond the discussion of the central theme. The echos of that year carried on and increased in intensity leading to wide spread prejudice that eventually became the Jim Crow Laws, racial segregation and a perfect storm of misery, poverty and wide spread disenfranchisement of the black population.

It is a sad fact that the shadow of Wilmington continues today to cast a blemish on current day events.

Historically the supremacists failed because whilst the United States have far to go to reach total equity, serious in-roads have been achieved, with more, far more to go.

Wilmington’s Lie is a riveting, fascinating and compelling re-telling of the massacre and its fallout not just in 1898 but to the present day.

It made a profound and long lasting impression on me. I was unaware of the so Called Wilmington Riot and for me it was an education. One is left with more questions than answers not about the massacre but about the depth of mans inhumanity to man.

The horrors of that November day in Wilmington were only formerly recognized as recently as 2000. The tragic echos reach down through the years to influence the decedents of those who lost their lives or who were driven out that day. Zucchino has managed to expose, for the whole world, the events all those years ago. He provides us a window into the truth of what happened to those innocent people. Necessarily graphic at times, the report documents the inhumanity of the hour and immense injustice that began in Wilmington, NC., and eventually inspired the Jim Crowe Laws.

CONCLUSION

Wilmington’s Lie is a stark, ugly, and yet a compelling read.

This history book is heavily researched, professionally written and easy to follow. The author centers on the facts of his research and avoids subjective statements. zucchino includes contemporaneous letters, personal journals, newspaper accounts of that day as well as official documentation. It is genuinely a scholastic effort and a powerful work.

Wilmington’s Lie is a profound exploration of a heinous crime against peaceful protesters who were simply attempting to exercise their newly acquired rights to participate in open and fair elections. Over 120+ years have passed and justice still evades the victims and their antecedents; adding insult to injury. Occulted until now from the purview of the public eye adds to the injustice. 

The span of the publication goes far beyond the discussion of the central theme. The echos of that year carried on and increased in intensity leading to wide spread prejudice that eventually became the Jim Crow Laws, racial segregation and a perfect storm of misery, poverty and wide spread disenfranchisement of the black population.

The most concerning aspect of the events of 1898 is that the present day community still refuses to admit that serious crimes took place that November day in 1889. It is a sad fact that the shadow of Wilmington continues today to cast a blemish on current day events. 

Having read the manuscript, I sympathize with the authors view and with those who, although long gone, still deserve justice. Telling the heinous truth might begin that path to justice. This was a book that had to be written in an attempt to at least recognize the victims of this tragedy, but far more, it’s a must read.

I highly recommend this book. If you enjoy this, then I recommend that you check out my review of StolenFive Free Boys Kidnapped Into Slavery and Their Astonishing Odyssey Home.

Click to see review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

HISTORIC CONTEXT – The capture of Wilmington during the Civil War, 1865
THE GLOBE, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, November 11, 1898

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would like to thank David Zucchino, NetGalley and Atlantic Monthly Press for affording me the opportunity to review Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy.

OTHER PUBLICATIONS BY THIS AUTHOR

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