The Museum of the Cape Fear will open its newest exhibit, Fayetteville and the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898, on March 19, exploring Fayetteville’s connections to this piece of North Carolina’s history. The exhibit is partially funded through a Project Support Grant from the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County, and is being held in conjunction with other community-wide exhibits and events that address the effects of intolerance and oppression. The exhibit runs through June 16, and is.
The Wilmington race riot is an important, yet largely overlooked, chapter in America’s racial history. While the Civil War ended slavery, it did not overcome feelings or beliefs in racial superiority. The election of 1898 was dominated in North Carolinaby a white supremacy campaign of the Democratic Party, which saw the establishment of White Government Union Clubs, formations of armed gangs to intimidate African Americans, Republicans and Populists, and the use of newspapers to fan the flame against the “abuses” of Republicans and “black rule.” InWilmington, this resulted in a “White Declaration of Independence” which led to the burning of a black newspaper office, a riot resulting in many deaths and injuries, the banishment of many black and Republican leaders, and the overthrow of elected Republican municipal leaders. The exhibit will explore Fayetteville’s connections to this event – Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry members went to Wilmington immediately following the riot to help keep the peace, Fayetteville-raised author Charles Chesnutt wrote about the riot, and the white supremacy movement was well documented in the Fayetteville Observer.
The Wilmington“riot” was not a spontaneous outbreak of violence. It was part of a larger campaign to reestablish white supremacy in government and society. As a result, a social order of segregation was established that would affect race relations for most of the twentieth century.
Museum administrator David Reid states that “this is a very disturbing piece of our state’s history, and one that many people don’t know about. We hope that this exhibit, along with other exhibits and programs occurring in Fayetteville, will promote a healthy discussion about diversity and tolerance.”
Besides the exhibit, there will be a special program offered on April 14. LeRae Umfleet of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources and author of A Day of Blood: The Wilmington Race Riot of 1898, will speak about the riot in the museum’s multi-purpose room at 2 p.m.
The Museum of the Cape Fear is a unit of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources. For more information on North Carolina arts, history and culture, visit Cultural Resources online.