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Today I am the same kind of fearful my extended ancestors must have been as the leaves turned crimson like the blood of at least 60 Black people who died on November 10th, 1898 when white supremacists staged a successful insurrection. My body cringes and my soul aches. I can feel the pain of the hundreds of ancestors caught in the mass slaughter.


Just a few months earlier, the summer heat wave in Wilmington North Carolina, was hot enough to boil the pee in the outhouses in many homes of the newly freed Black people. Enslavement was over for only 33 years by that time and there were about 25,000 Black men to 8,000 white men living in the city. The city was growing and prospering, with many Black people gainfully employed in many professions. Nothing could be farther away from their minds than what was to come that late fall day.


I tremble to think of the level of thought some people were actively giving and the work being done to overthrow the government of Wilmington as the people continued to work, live, play, and dismiss what I am sure were utterings, innuendo, and perhaps some outright rhetoric threatening democracy. Black people probably thought they were protected by the Thirteenth Amendment, ratified in 1865 officially abolishing enslavement for all but those convicted of crimes. Black people were officially citizens thanks to the 14th Amendment, ratified back in 1868, and were prospering in Wilmington, many not only avoiding imprisonment but becoming legislators ever since being guaranteed the right to vote in 1870. Despite attempts by some white people to reverse the law, even some who resorted to violence, I am reasonably sure the greater population of Wilmington never thought for a moment they would be involved in an insurrection and overthrow of the government which would have ramifications for the entire country for Black people, all because of the need by white people to be superior and to dominate.  


Any search on Google will reveal terms such as “massacre.” The website, “Understanding the American South” described the insurrection as “the nation’s only successful coup d’etat in history.” A conspiracy led by Southern Democrats amassed a mob of over 2,000 thugs who rampaged and expelled what was known as the Fusionist government, consisting of both white and Black legislators. As would become the norm for these people who detested Black progress, they destroyed Black businesses, the only Black newspaper, and murdered 60 to about 300 people.[1]


We are facing the same issue today. Black people are living, loving, playing, working, and in many cases prospering in this country, despite the utterings, innuendo, and outright rhetoric threatening democracy. We have the 13th through 15th amendments despite all attempts to sabotage and disenfranchise. The rhetoric being spoken by both the left and right is careful to leave out the obvious threat to Black people even as some are at least admitting to white supremacism. The insurrection of January 6 outwardly displayed confederate flags and notwithstanding the constant association of Mike Pence with hanging, everyone with a grasp of history knows what nooses were meant to illustrate.


It's no secret that true democracy for Black people has always been a consistent struggle since the Enslavement ended, but there has never been a coup d’etat the likes of what is being threatened today. This Democracy is being threatened for more than just Black people in 2024. Some white people are feeling the very real threat to themselves as well. The outline for what is expected to come once fulfilled is worse than I think anyone can imagine, and I am afraid we will be like Wilmington, North Carolina after the summer scorches the spring flowers and the late fall drops its last leaf.


We are living the history of our descendants. Everything we experience today will become their history because, at some point, we will become their ancestors. We owe it to them to be honest about it.


I’ve said this a million times. I even wrote it for the beginning of my book on White Supremacy and the Post-Racial Color Blind Era. I will continue to say it over and over because just as our ancestors were upended and many destroyed by that insurrection, we are all being threatened by much worse and need to do all it takes to ensure our descendants don’t have to read about us the same way in the future.






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