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The Wilmington Coup D'état of 1898


This guide identifies collections relating to the November 10, 1898 racial coup in Wilmington, NC, where members of the Democratic party orchestrated a white supremacist political campaign that resulted in the violent overthrow of the locally elected government. In a bid to remove Fusion party members of Black businessmen and their white political allies from public positions of influence, a group of armed, white men—coaxed on and led by powerful community leaders known as The Secret Nine—attacked and killed Black citizens throughout the city, ran out many others, and finally placed their own Democratic candidates in the newly vacated seats.

The events of the 1898 coup marked a turning point in the post-Reconstruction South that changed the trajectory of race relations in North Carolina and marked the start of Jim Crow laws in the state, which further enforced racial segregation through the mid-20th century. Primary source materials dated after the initial events of 1898 and until the 100th anniversary in 1998 illustrate that the coup continued to be invoked in the intervening years as a means to threaten and repress the local Black community. Additional content includes both primary and secondary sources of personal accounts, correspondence, contemporary news coverage, memoranda and resolutions of the main participants, material from the centennial commemoration, as well as the aforementioned from the perspective and experience of Black Americans.

For further information on the lasting racial impacts of 1898 in Wilmington, please refer to the Civil Rights Movement and Wilmington Ten subject guides, linked via the Related Guides tab.