Wilmington's Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy

Written by:
David Zucchino
Narrated by:
Victor Bevine

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
January 2020
11 hours 27 minutes
From Pulitzer Prize winner David Zucchino comes a searing account of the Wilmington riot and
coup of 1898, an extraordinary event unknown to most Americans

By the 1890s, Wilmington was North Carolina’s largest city and a shining example of a mixed-race
community. It was a bustling port city with a burgeoning African American middle class and a Fusionist
government of Republicans and Populists that included black aldermen, police officers, and magistrates.
There were successful black-owned businesses and an African American newspaper, the Record. But across
the state—and the South—white supremacist Democrats were working to reverse the advances made by
former slaves and their progeny.

In North Carolina, Democrats were plotting to take back the state legislature in November “by the
ballot or bullet or both,” and then to trigger a “race riot” to overthrow Wilmington’s multi-racial government.
Led by prominent citizens including Josephus Daniels, publisher of the state’s largest newspaper, and
former Confederate Colonel Alfred Moore Waddell, white supremacists rolled out a carefully orchestrated
campaign that included raucous rallies, race-baiting editorials and newspaper cartoons, and sensational,
fabricated news stories.

With intimidation and violence, the Democrats suppressed the black vote and stuffed ballot boxes (or
threw them out), to win control of the state legislature on November 8th. Two days later, more than 2,000
heavily armed Red Shirts swarmed through Wilmington, torching the Record office, terrorizing women
and children, and shooting at least sixty black men dead in the streets. The rioters forced city officials to
resign at gunpoint and replaced them with mob leaders. Prominent blacks—and sympathetic whites—were
banished. Hundreds of terrified black families took refuge in surrounding swamps and forests.

This brutal insurrection is a rare instance of a violent overthrow of an elected government in the U.S.
It halted gains made by blacks and restored racism as official government policy, cementing white rule for
another half century. It was not a “race riot,” as the events of November 1898 came to be known, but rather
a racially motivated rebellion launched by white supremacists.

In Wilmington’s Lie, Pulitzer Prize winner David Zucchino uses contemporary newspaper accounts,
diaries, letters, and official communications to create a gripping and compelling narrative that weaves
together individual stories of hate and fear and brutality. This is a dramatic and definitive account of a
remarkable but forgotten chapter of American history.
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Excellent well researched but very readable. History was done by the victors so and different story was told and it stuck,therefore forgotten. The hundred year brought some historians to look further. This only American coup was told by an excellent historian and New York Times writer living in North Carolina. He opened it up discussion and how history repeats itself

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Beverly S.

Very interesting. Heartbreaking how the people were terrorized, killed, raped etc...dems were evil as well as Red Shirts, but I was disappointed that the Pres. McKinley turned his back or just ignored what terrible things were going on. Lies were told over and over again. “Rain of terror” for those human beings who were lied about and accused of things so untrue. The perpetrators of all the horrendous evil, will have to answered God for what they did. Narration was great and listened almost non stop to the book. I give book and narration 5 stars.

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Kenneth D.

Very interesting story about the white power movement in my home State of NC. The book had a lot of background history about post civil war reconstruction that was necessary to understand where the minds of both the white and black communities were at the time. It is sad that it took 100+ years to tell the story and it looks like we are still some time in the future before most people will accept it as fact.

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