News-Record&Sentinel, July 2020

I do not believe for a moment that [whites] will submit any longer [to Negro rule].  It is time for the oft-quoted shotgun to play an actual part in the election….Our historic [Cape Fear] river should be choked with the bodies of our enemies, white and black, by which this state shall be redeemed.  –Alfred Waddell, October 24, 1898, Wilmington N.C.

Negro rule in N.C.?  Really?  Yeah, really.

The old pro-slavery Democratic Party controlled N.C into the 1890s.  They favored big-money interests.  In 1894, poor white farmers, ignored by the Democrats, organized as the Populist Party, and they collaborated with Republicans (60-40 black).  They won, and then again in 1896, even electing the governor. 

“Fusion” kept their promises.  They limited interest on farm loans.  They reversed Democratic voter suppression.  They raised taxes for schools.  They were odds-on favorites again in 1898.

A Democratic adviser wrote: “There is but one hope for the railroads to capture the next legislature, and that is for the n**** to be made the issue.”

Wealthy businessmen worked secretly to organize.  The Raleigh News & Observer joined, with their cartoonist.  “Red Shirt” thugs appeared.  “White supremacy conventions” were held in Fayetteville and Goldsboro.  Horsemen rode through colored neighborhoods, firing into houses.  Democrats told gun stores not to sell to blacks; whites bought 400 rifles.

Election Eve in Wilmington, Waddell addressed a large crowd: “Go to the polls tomorrow, and if you find the Negro out voting, tell him to leave.  If he refuses, kill him….We will win tomorrow .”

Election day, white mobs slaughtered hundreds of blacks “like rabbits.”  Thousands fled into swamps.   

Democrats won, and their new majority moved immediately to disenfranchise blacks with an amendment that circumvented the U.S. Constitution.  Then they passed “racial hierarchy laws,” aimed at poor whites, to make them feel superior to blacks and be unlikely to ally with Republicans again. 

It worked.  Oh, did it work.  N.C. legislation became the model for other states’ Jim Crow laws.  And generations of white Southerners accepted, without conscious thought, that black citizens were inferior and so “racial hierarchy” was the natural order of things.  I was one of them.

Footnote:  Relevant to 2020, other men spoke along with Waddell.  One was Charles Aycock, whose statue is in the U.S. Capitol.  Another was Tom Jarvis, who has a residence hall named for him at East Carolina University – and a Methodist church!