As February is Black History Month, we turn our attention to the 1898 coup d’état in Wilmington. WHQR spoke with Philip Gerard, author of Cape Fear Rising.
In 1898, a group of white supremacists overthrew the democratically elected biracial government of Wilmington and replaced it with officials who instituted the first Jim Crow laws in North Carolina. Philip Gerard, a creative writing professor at UNCW, researched these events for his historical novel:
"I think talking about it always helps. As Harvard Jennings, the great radio host once told a caller who said, 'Why can’t we just put this behind us?' He said, 'Well, you can’t really put it behind you until you put it in front of you.' And I think, you can go to Fort Fisher and celebrate the brave Confederate defenders, but you really can’t get the story of 1898. There’s a little monument out on 4th street, but more needs to be done just to remember this, in the same way that you remember any traumatic event. Because part of it is, 'Here’s what happened,' but then part of it is the positive aspect, 'Here’s the progress we’ve made.'"
Gerard says that, while racial divides have become less prominent, they still underlie many modern issues, such as redistricting, voter ID laws, and governmental races.