The Wilmington, NC coup d’état of 1898
What may have been the United State’s only coup d’état began on November 10, 1898 in Wilmington, NC. It is estimated that between fourteen to sixty African Americans were killed, although the exact number may never be known.
The violence continued for several days with African Americans being forced to flee the city for their lives in the violence that occurred when up to 2,000 white men burned down the city and North Carolina’s only African American newspaper, the Daily Record. These events occurred two days after an election that had placed a Fusionist white mayor and biracial city council in office. The organized mob removed the elected officials from office with assistance from the Wilmington Light Infantry (WLI) and federal Naval Reserves. Over two thousand African Americans permanently left Wilmington after the white mob’s assault on them and it’s forcibly removing the biracial city government and replacing it with members of the segregationist nineteenth century Democratic Party. Prior to the coup d’état, Wilmington had been North Carolina’s largest and most progressive city with a majority African American population. There was a growing African American middle class that included many business owners, as well as African American policemen and firemen. This tragic incident creating a change in some of the progression that had occurred in the south with reconstruction. Other areas around the country viewed Wilmington as a green light to clamp down and suppress African American political, business and social freedoms.