Turning the Page on History: Wilmington, NC 1898

My quest blog

I first heard about the 1898 Wilmington Race Riots (also known as the Wilmington Massacre) soon after moving to this North Carolina coastal town in 1984. I was drawn there by the lure of working in the movie industry during the early days following Italian director and producer Dino de Laurentis’ establishment of his namesake film studios just north of town.

At the time, Wilmington was a small sleepy city steeped in Southern charm with beautiful beaches located nearby, but as I discovered during my two years there, the town and its people featured prominently in a particularly dark chapter of North Carolina history.

As I tend to do, I gravitated toward spending my leisure time with other local artists. One such character was Claude Howell, a noted seascape painter in his 70s, who held a weekly salon in his penthouse apartment in the historic city center. Claude was not…

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Author: Bill Ziegler

I am a former resident of Delhi Township. These are memories of my life and times in that community during the 1950s and 1960s. A time capsule.

6 thoughts on “Turning the Page on History: Wilmington, NC 1898”

  1. A fascinating, if disturbing, look into American history, Bill. I often wonder about the use of the term ‘white supremacy’, though, as it seems to imply that only whites ‘do’ supremacy, whereas we know that that’s not so. I realise that maybe it’s just being used for this particular time and place in history we’re in right now, however, I also believe that give anyone of any colour half a chance and many of them will become supremists in a nanosecond. But, if we don’t name things as we see them – e.g. white supremacy – then how can we change them? Just a wee bit of a philosophical debate I have with myself 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the comment, Katrina.
    Black Supremacism has never existed, in any European colonial system that I know about. Trump launched his 1776 Commission as a response to the 1619 Project that traces the dark practices of slavery in this country. I was glad to read that Biden has already dismissed the commission. As always, Trump assigned fuctionaries who had no background in history and who provided no footnotes.

    “The biggest tell in the 1776 report is that it lists ‘Progressivism’ along with ‘Slavery’ and ‘Fascism’ in its list of ‘challenges to America’s principles,’” Thomas Sugrue, a historian at New York University, wrote on Twitter. “Time to rewrite my lectures to say that ending child labor and regulating meatpacking = Hitlerism.”


  3. Fortunately, at a very young age I was emphatically told by my mother about the exceptionally kind and caring nature of our black family doctor.

    She never had anything disdainful to say about people of color; in fact she loves to watch/listen to the Middle Eastern and Indian subcontinental dancers and musicians on the multicultural channels.

    Conversely, if she’d told me the opposite about the doctor, I could’ve aged while blindly linking his color with an unjustly cynical view of him and all black people.

    When angry, my (late) father occasionally expressed displeasure with Anglo immigrants, largely due to his own experiences with bigotry as a new Canadian citizen in the 1950s and ’60s.

    He, who like Mom emigrated from Eastern Europe, didn’t resent non-white immigrants, for he realized they had things at least as bad. Plus he noticed—as I also now do—in them an admirable absence of a sense of entitlement.

    Thus essentially by chance I reached adulthood unstricken by uncontrolled feelings of racial contempt seeking expression.

    Not as lucky, some people—who may now be in an armed authority capacity—were raised with a distrust or blind dislike of other racial groups.

    Regardless, the first step towards changing our unjust and irrationally biased thinking is our awareness of it and its origin.

    But until then, racist sentiments must be either suppressed or professionally dealt with, especially when considering the mentality is easily inflamed by anger.


    1. Thank you for the important points, fgsjr. The celebration of ignorance in defense of a mindless sense of superiority hinders progress to an incalculable extent. Trump’s 1776 Commission was a refutation of the facts clearly documented in the 1619 Project. It is disheartening to contemplate that American history has whitewashed and diluted the canon of received history from one generation to the next. The American classroom was designed on a 19th Century Prussian model that actively discouraged critical thinking in favor of rote memorization. We all share the same shallow set of soundbites.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well said.

        For me, really worrisome is the seemingly innate/reactive human tendency towards adversarial perceptions of ‘others’ or ‘them’ based on superficial traits, especially colour, foreign language and/or religious wear.

        Sometimes I muse, what humankind may need to suffer in order to survive the long term—indeed from ourselves!—is an even greater nemesis (perhaps a multi-tentacled ET?) than our own politics of difference, against which we could all unite, attack and defeat—all during which we’d be forced to work closely side-by-side together and witness just how humanly similar we are to each other.

        Yet, maybe some five or more decades later when all traces of the nightmarish ET invasion are gone, are we not likely to inevitably revert to the same typical politics of scale to which we humans seem so collectively hopelessly prone; from the intercontinental, international, national, provincial or state, regional and municipal?

        Hypothetically, reduce our species to just a few city blocks of residents who are similar in every way and eventually there may still be some sort of bitter inter-neighbourhood quarreling.

        Nonetheless, as a species, we must keep trying our best to (at the very least) behave civilly towards those we perceive as different from us.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you for the very pertinent points, fgsjr. I’ve just read an opinion piece by Maureen Dowd in the NYT: “Trump’s Taste for Blood.” She describes the dynamic well:

          Trump knows exactly how to speak directly to his base, but he also speaks to those who would not hesitate in allowing him to gain dictatorial power. These are people who sense the personal advantage that “law and order” could bring for their respective careers.

          Thank you for the ET argument, I would imagine them quarantining Planet Earth to protect the civilized universe from chaos. That “inter-neighbourhood quarreling” is frightening enough.


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