Tuesday, December 26, 2017


by Cash Michaels

            Thanks to the NHC NAACP, there is movement this week on correcting the wording of a proposed state historical marker for Wilmington which commemorates the 1898 race massacre.
            That marker, titled “Wilmington Coup,” recalls how, on Nov. 10, 1898, a group of white supremacists started from the downtown area, going through the port city killing African-American citizens, and eventually overthrowing the city government, making the event the only recorded coup de ‘tat in American history.
            The proposed “Wilmington Coup” marker, however, characterizes the events that began on Nov. 10, 1898, with the following, and some day, inaccurate, information:
            Armed crowd met, Nov. 10, 1898, at armory here, marched 6 blocks S.E., and burned office of daily Record, black-owned newspaper edited by Alex Manley. Violence left up to 60 blacks dead. Led to overthrow of city government and the installation of coup leader Alfred Moore Waddell as mayor. “Race riot” was part of a statewide political campaign based on calls for white supremacy & exploitation of racial tensions.
            What many, like the NHC NAACP and others, are calling “inaccurate” per the wording is the sentence, “Violence left up to 60 blacks dead.”
            As a Wilmington Journal editorial published in today’s edition points out, even the state’s own six-year examination of the 1898 Wilmington race massacre is clear in stating that the number of African-Americans killed during the multi-day race massacre remains “unknown.”
            “The events of November 10 (the first day of the race massacre) left an unknown number of dead on Wilmington’s streets. The coroner performed fourteen inquests, but other evidence indicates that the total number of deaths was as high as sixty,” the 1898 commission report states.
            A June, 2006 story in the New York Times quoted an 1898 commission member, Lottie Clinton, a retired state port supervisor and 1 of 13 members of a state-appointed panel,  as saying, Nobody will ever be certain how many people died the night of Nov. 10, 1898, on the streets, in the marshes where some ran for safety, or in the swift, wide current of the river that has always defined this port city. The Cape Fear River could be dammed up with black bodies, but we have no way of knowing just how many.”
            The so-called “Wilmington Coup” marker was approved in the fall of 2017, according to www.ncmarkers.com, the website of the North Carolina Highway Historical Program, which is administered by the Research Branch of the NC Office of Archives and History.  The NC Highway Historical Marker Advisory Committee, which meets just twice a year, “…[reviews] applications received and determine the wording on new markers.”
            In this case, according to correspondence The Journal as seen, the application for the 1898 historical marker was submitted by the nonprofit group, Working Narratives, headquartered in Wilmington, which “…[works] with communities to tell great stories that inspire, activate and enliven our democracy.”
Members of the historical marker advisory committee are appointed by the secretary of the NC Dept. of Cultural Resources to serve five-year terms. Their primary job is “…to advise the secretary on the historical authenticity, relative merit, and appropriateness of each subject brought to their attention; to approve or disapprove each proposal; to fix the wording of the inscriptions; and to establish criteria for carrying out the program.”
            There were ten members of the committee for 2017, two of which had terms to expire in 2017, while two others are set to leave in 2018. All of them are listed as professors serving at various universities across the state.
            However, only one of those committee members, Dr. Arwin D. Smallwood of N.C. A&T University in Greensboro, teaches at an historically black university.
            Dedication of the “Wilmington Coup” marker will be left up to local organizers here in Wilmington. According to the website, the dedication ceremony is tentatively planned for Market Street between Fourth and Fifth streets. Expected delivery of the marker is between April and May 2018.
            Earlier this week, Deborah Dicks Maxwell, president of the NHC NAACP, received correspondence from Rend Smith, communications director for Working Narratives, who Ms. Maxwell contacted regarding the organization’s original application for the marker. She had asked Smith to “reach those” at the state Highway Historical Marker Program about the language of the proposed marker, asking for it to be changed.
            I am very concerned about listing that only 60 people were killed. It truly minimizes what actually occurred,” Ms. Maxwell wrote Rend Smith on Dec. 30th. “If you can reach those who have not made plaque at this time to consider using what is at the 1898 memorial "an unknown number" as we will truly never know the real number as records of the deaths of African Americans especially at that time and considering the circumstances were not recorded properly.”
According to a January 2 email from Ansley Herring Wegner, administrator for the program, to Smith, who passed the response onto Ms. Maxwell, a meeting is scheduled for Jan. 5 ,”… to discuss the historical marker language and our options for how to proceed.”
            Wegner went on the marker language may, “…have to [be] put back before the advisory committee in May…to refine the wording. We can’t make significant changes to the wording without their involvement. The words are critical and are part of what the committee is there to advise on.”
            Thus far, Rev. Dr. T. Anthiny Spearman, president of the NCNAACP, and attorney Irving Joyner, chair of the NCNAACP Legal Redress Committee, and former vice chair of the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission, are pleased that the with the response from the state, and that the historical marker program administrators seem to be moving quickly to resolve the matter, and possibly correct the language.
            “Good progress,” Joyner reacted in an email.



            If you go online, and search Wikipedia for “Wilmington insurrection of 1898,” and then go down until you find how many were killed during this violent, racist, unprovoked attack on decent African-American citizens in November 1898, you’ll see the following:
            Originally described by white Americans as a race riot caused by blacks…a mob of nearly 2,000 white men attacked the only black newspaper in the state, and persons and property in black neighborhoods, killing an estimated 15 to more than 60 victims, and destroying homes and businesses built up since the Civil War.                                   
            Now here’s the REAL interesting thing about this Wikipedia passage – it is based on a June 4, 2006 New York Times article by John DeSantis titled, “Wilmington, N.C. Revisits a Bloody 1898 Day and Reflects.”
            But that’s NOT “the interesting thing” we’re referring to.
            THIS is:
            Nobody will ever be certain how many people died the night of Nov. 10, 1898, on the streets, in the marshes where some ran for safety, or in the swift, wide current of the river that has always defined this port city. ‘The Cape Fear River could be dammed up with black bodies, but we have no way of knowing just how many," said Lottie Clinton, a retired state port supervisor and 1 of 13 members of a state-appointed panel that studied the night's events for six years. "A lot of people, nobody ever heard from them again, so you just couldn't know whether they ran away and never came back or were killed.’”
              The “commission” The Times story was referring to then was the 1898
Wilmington Race Riot Commission, and, according to The Times, “The panel….concluded in a report released this week that what happened was not a riot, but a well-planned insurrection by white businessmen and former Confederate soldiers, mostly Democrats, against a lawfully elected government of fusionists and Republicans, who were mostly black.”
            But that first line of The Times story from 2006 about one of the key conclusions from a commission member is extremely important here:
            Nobody will ever be certain how many people died the night of Nov. 10, 1898, on the streets, in the marshes where some ran for safety, or in the swift, wide current of the river that has always defined this port city. The Cape Fear River could be dammed up with black bodies, but we have no way of knowing just how many.”
            OK, so The Times quotes a commission member saying “nobody will ever be certain how many people died …” So we go straight to the commission report, since Ms. Clinton and her fellow commissioners spent six years putting it together.
            Under “1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission FINDINGS, bullet point #7  reads, “The events of November 10 (the first day of the race massacre) left an unknown number of dead on Wilmington’s streets. The coroner performed fourteen inquests, but other evidence indicates that the total number of deaths was as high as sixty.”
            What “other evidence?” From where and from whom? And given that some of the first reports from the days of the race massacre erroneously had blacks attacking whites, then certainly getting sources of accurate information from the very people perpetrating or supporting the massacre was absolutely foolhardy.
            The bottomline here is that we DON’T KNOW, and we may NEVER know. There is NO certainty as to how many blacks in Wilmington were killed then. Serious research needs to be done by someone reparable on that point, and we simply don’t have it yet.
            So why, as the new year is just beginning, is The Journal bringing this up now? Because right before New Year’s Day, it was reported that the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Committee had approved a new plaque, to be placed in downtown Wilmington, commemorating the 1898 race massacre.
            According to published reports, the language on the planned marker reads, in part, “Violence left up to 60 blacks dead.” But according to the state’s own commission, that statement IS NOT TRUE!
            “The events of November 10 left an unknown number of dead on Wilmington’s streets.” So how many bodies were in the Cape Fear River, or elsewhere around what was considered the largest municipality in North Carolina at that time?
            Answer – NO ONE KNOWS, and the commission report tells us that!
            So why didn’t the state Historical Marker Committee listen? What could possibly be wrong with the 1898 historical marker stating the same fact the state’s 1898 race massacre report clearly stated – The events of Nov. 10, 1898 left an UNKNOWN number of blacks dead on Wilmington’s streets.”
            And by the way – history tells us the 1898 race massacre started on November 10, 1898, and lasted for several days thereafter. Thus, if we can’t get a clear bead on how many were killed on the first day, then how are we supposed to accept “up to 60…”as the number dead from just ONE DAY as a historical fact?
            The Wilmington Journal strongly urges Rep. Deb Butler, and whomever else is tied into this 1898 historical marker mess to DELETE that “up to 60” line, and replace it with “…unknown number of African-Americans …,” which is historically accurate, and stated by your own state researchers.
            We also salute the immediate action taken by Deborah Dicks Maxwell, president of the NHC NAACP, and Rend Smith, communications director of Working Narratives, the local group that sponsored the marker, for their immediate direct action addressing this issue. They've already gotten the wheels turning.
           If the state of North Carolina is going to issue a marker commemorating an historic tragedy that not only changed the state, but the course of history in the South, then it should at least employ proper due diligence in it’s fact finding.
            If it was good enough for the state’s 1898 commission, then it’s good enough for the historic marker committee.
            CHANGE IT NOW!


by Cash Michaels
contributing writer

            It was the year of recovering from the 2016 election of Donald Trump; when a Democratic governor came into office in North Carolina, bitterly opposed by GOP lawmakers; and a prominent black leader gained national prominence as he stepped away from the NCNAACP.
            Those were just some of the top stories impacting North Carolina’s African-American community we covered in 2017. In the final part of this three part series, we look back at August to December.
            August – A federal three-judge panel blasted Republican legislative lawmakers for stalling their original August 2016 order to redraw racially gerrymandered legislative voting districts, and order that they be redraw immediately. Outgoing NCNAACP Pres. Bishop William Barber, calls the ruling a “major victory.” Meanwhile Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy: NC, says the GOP are planning to pass another voter ID suppression law soon. In Charlottesville, Va. a young white woman is killed after an alleged white supremacist drives a car through a crowed street, killing her after demonstrators clash. Pres. Trump blames “both sides” for the violence. North Carolina religious leaders say white supremacist violence can happen here.
            After statewide hearings, Republican lawmakers release redrawn redistricting maps, but plaintiffs suing to have new maps redraw legally show that the new maps are still unconstitutional. Sensing that the federal judicial panel is not pleased with the new maps, Republican leaders – who insist that race was not used in redrawing the districts -  start publicly denouncing the process, and threatening to appeal to the US Supreme Court. Six past and current NC Supreme Court justices gather for the first time ever to commemorate their legacy on the state’s High Court. North Carolina’s two black congress-people, Alma Adams and G. K. Butterfield, stop short of saying that Pres. Donald Trump should be impeached.
            September – Democrats express concern about Republican legislative efforts to craft a judicial redistricting plan. The NCNAACP joins the plaintiffs in the legislative redistricting case, charging that on the redrawn maps, 12 of the new districts are still racial gerrymanders, and are in violation of federal law. The US Census Bureau reports that more than 1.5 million North Carolinians live in poverty in the state.
            October – Bishop Dr. William Barber formally steps down as president of the NCNAACP. Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman is elected to succeed him. Activist at the NCNAACP Convention in Raleigh warn about judicial redistricting, and other legal changes Republicans are planning. Federal partisan gerrymandering trial begins in Greensboro, with witnesses for the plaintiffs testifying that North Carolina’s partisan voting maps were extreme, allowing Republicans to win 10 of 13 congressional seats.
Rep. Alma Adams blasts Pres. Trump for essentially calling a black gold star widow a liar. Republican state Sen. Bill Rabon files a bill during the third Special Session of the year, reducing terms of service for state Supreme Court justices from eight years to just two. A federal three-judge panel designates a Special Master to redraw GOP redistricting maps. Despite efforts Pres. Trump, people flock to sign-up during the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act.
            November -  On Election Day, Vy Lyles is elected the first black female mayor of Charlotte, and Kinston elects an all-black Town Council. Durham Mayor Bill Bell steps down after a successful 16 years in office. Gov. Cooper orders more state business be done with minority companies. Rep. Alma Adams blasts Pres. Trump’s tax reform plan. Civil rights attorney Anita Earls announces 2018 run for state Supreme Court. Bishop Barber announces he’s going to Rome to meet the Pope. When he arrives, Barber is surprised that other world leaders know and admire him from his Moral Monday marches. Rev. Jesse Jackson announces he has Parkinson’s Disease.
            December -  Gov. Cooper and Chief Justice Mark Martin agree to meet with the NCNAACP about criminal justice issues. Bishop Barber announces national Poor People’s Campaign to begin in May, 2018. As blacks in the Alabama US Senate race help to defeat Republican candidate Roy Moore, the African-American Caucus of the NC Democratic Party gears up to turnout the black vote in 2018.


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            It was Sunday, Dec. 12th, just over a month after veteran civil rights leader, Rev. Jesse Jackson, announced that he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
            Bishop William Barber, pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, and former president of the NCNAACP, was back in his pulpit after a being away for several weeks. During his remarks to the congregation, Barber stopped, and suddenly asked  worshippers to say a prayer for his friend.
            “You all pray for Rev. Jackson,” Dr. Barber asked. “He has been suffering from…Parkinson’s, and the last time I was with him, he had to hold onto my arm to steady himself. I didn’t know exactly what was happening then.”
            That “last time” was during the 74th Annual NCNAACP Convention in Raleigh in October, where Rev. Jackson came to participate, on his way to Greensboro for N.C. A&T University’s Homecoming. Jackson is a 1964 alum of the historically black university, one of his many ties to the Tar Heel state.
            It was also at the NCNAACP Convention that one of Rev. Jackson’s closest friends from the civil rights movement, Rev. Cardes Brown, president of the Greensboro NAACP branch, last saw him, but didn’t realize that anything was wrong.
            “I didn’t know at the time, but there seemed to be something [wrong with him], but we didn’t discuss it,” Rev. Brown, who is also Senior Pastor of New Light Missionary Baptist Church in Greensboro, recalled two weeks later.
            Rev. Jackson, 76, revealed his affliction – the same one that claimed the life of boxing legend Muhammad Ali in 2016 – on November 17th. Jackson’s father also suffered from Parkinson’s disease.
            “My family and I began to notice changes about three years ago,” the founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition said in a statement issued then. “For a while, I resisted interrupting my work to visit a doctor. But as my daily physical struggles intensified I could no longer ignore the symptoms, so I acquiesced.”
            According to Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, which diagnosed Rev. Jackson’s condition in 2014, Parkinson’s disease is a “progressive degenerative disorder that results from loss of cells in various parts of the brain that control movement.”
            Those who see Rev. Jackson more often say they noticed a “change in his walk and a slowed speech.” 
            Charmaine McKissick-Melton, a professor at North Carolina Central University in Durham, has long been friends with Rev. Jackson since the days he used to work with her father, legendary civil rights attorney Floyd McKissick.
            She says she’s known for years that Jackson was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, but said nothing.
            “We knew something was wrong, because we saw Ali at the beginning,” McKissick-Melton said. “So I had seen that shake thing, but I didn’t say anything to Jesse.”
            She added that the symptoms were apparent to her when she saw Jackson at NCCU in 2012 , two years before he was diagnosed.
            On Christmas Day. Rev. Jackson continued his decade-long tradition of ministering to the inmates at the Cook County jail in Chicago. He told The Associated Press that he’s adopted a daily regimen of  physical therapy, medication, and prayer. He is also traveling less now, but still continues his civil rights work.
            “This is a man who wore his body out trying to empower the lives of others, as well as continue to fight for freedom,” Rev. John Mendez, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, and another close friend of Rev. Jackson, said Wednesday. He adds that there is a message in Rev. Jackson’s courage.
            “You cannot stand for the cause of civil rights and justice, without courage.”
            Rev. Brown agrees.
            “Jesse, in my opinion, is a very courageous person. He doesn’t focus on himself. We’ve been friends for years, and he’s a person of faith, and we’re trusting that he will continue to do the work that he’s been doing, even with the diagnosis and the condition.
            “I know him well enough to know that he will fight to the finish,” Rev. Brown added.


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