Lessons learned from the Coup D’etat of Wilmington

Wilmington Coup

The year is 1898 and Wilmington, NC is in shambles due to a Coup D’etat.
The Daily Record Newspaper is torched down due to not giving into the threats of white supremacists.

By the end of that tragic day, 60 African Americans would be deceased and the newly elected government officials would be overthrown and replaced by white nationalists.

Flash forward to the year 2020, no one likes to acknowledge this ugly piece of history. Up until recently this crucial part of history was not recognized. To add insult to injury, for years when the infamous riot of Wilmington was referred to, it was believed that the African Americans were the rioters and the unruly cause of this event. When in actuality, they were the victims of an unprovoked attack.

Does this sound familiar? Oftentimes, Africans Americans are doing ordinary tasks and minding their own business, yet we are targeted. An example of this is the South Carolina church shootings back in 2015, or the more recent example of Breonna Taylor who was sleeping in her bed when gunned down by law enforcement.

As an African American woman, I can say without hesitation that I am distrubed, hurt, and downright outraged that I have to stay extra vigilant at all times because I am perceived as a threat. My life is not valued by a large population of people simply because of my skin tone. Despite having a master’s degree and the work ethic to achieve my goals, to some I will always be inferior, irrelevant and less than. 

I know my story is similar to the lives destroyed at the massacre. These people all had hopes, goals, and dreams. What can we learn from them? First, we must acknowledge this piece of history. As a history buff, I have always hated how the history books tried to skip over events in history that depicted cacausians as the people that they truly were.

Instead, text books try to gloss over these parts of history like it never happened. In order to create a bright and better tomorrow, history needs to be told in an accurate way, not a modified version that makes former government leaders look like saints.

Second, let’s keep it real. Why are black and brown people always perceived as a threat?

The Fisherman’s Dock in front of Oceanic Hotel, Wrightsville Beach, near Wilmington

Up until that day in 1898, Wilmington had a larger percentage of African American residents. Black men were thriving and 126,0000 were registered voters and also excelling at careers in law, medicine, education, entrepreneurship, and cosmetology/barbering.

Why is this bad? Black people aren’t allowed to live the American dream, too?

Let’s leave that colonizer mindset in yesteryear and understand that black people are here to stay forever regardless of the bricks that are thrown our way. We will collect those bricks and build and indestructible foundation.

Third, the biggest takeaway from this is that this same mindset exists today. Look at the foolishness that just took place a month ago at our nation’s capital. On one hand, I was in shock and disbelief that something of that nature could take place, but on the other hand I can’t say it was that surprising because all the signs were there.

The last four years under the former president created a deeper divide in this nation. Many people were already quite open and had no problem expressing their disdain for the pending presidential transition, so it was expected that they would feel emboldened and empowered to attempt another coup d’etat exactly the same as the Wilmington riots because they also resented the shift in governmental power. 

In conclusion, to my brothers and sisters, do not walk around in fear. To those who are not African American and do not understand the significance of November 1898 or the capitol events, please do not turn a blind eye. Educate yourselves and learn the history so that is not repeated. To the 60 lives lost on that fateful days in 1898, your existence was not in vain. We are picking up the pieces of the house that was torn down and building a glorious and unbreakable mansion.


Jasmin Ikard resides in Greenville, NC.

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