David Zucchino. Wilmington's Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2020. Xxii + 426 pages. Hardcover, $28.00..

AuthorSorensen, Benjamin

Wilmington is a quaint city located in southeastern North Carolina, just a few minutes drive from picturesque beaches. It seems to be a small, bustling town in the center that then sprawls out to beach shops, restaurants, and shopping centers; it is today a cosmopolitan municipality where all races seem to work in harmony in local government, colleges and universities, and the local bohemian cultural scene. It is also the city that this reviewer has called home for the last fourteen years.

However, Wilmington has always had a dark history of hatred, racism, oppression, and violence. In his work Wilmington's Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy, David Zucchino documents the narrative of the only successful coup d'etat in American history: The Race Riots of 1898.

His work's prologue briefly describes the events of November 10, 1898, as a foreshadowing of this brilliant narrative's later contents. He casts the events as the denizens of Wilmington at the time must have seen them: the prologue insinuates that the riot was a spontaneous uprising that naturally rose from the months of racial strife that had plagued the city, and all of the American South. Yet, at the onset of the very first chapter of his thirty-eight relatively short chapters, Zucchino puts this notion to rest. He describes the actual situation in 1865 in Wilmington: this was a city where "any civil liberties envisioned by the Emancipation Proclamation had not materialized by the summer and fall of 1865" (p.5). He documents many acts of violence against the Black population. This gives an effective backdrop for his introduction of the later leader of Wilmington's white supremacists: The Confederate "Colonel" (a position he never actually attained) Alfred Moore Waddell.

As a counterpoint to the actions of the white supremacists and their organizing efforts throughout the Reconstruction period and beyond, Zucchino also introduces Abraham Galloway, one of Wilmington's most acclaimed Black civil rights leaders of Reconstruction Wilmington. Through these two characters, he documents the rising strife between the races in Wilmington. Even though Abraham Galloway died in 1870, Waddell lived to become the main coordinator of the white supremacists until the early twentieth century.

Wilmington, interestingly, became a model city in the Reconstruction South; its aldermen were both African American and white, many African Americans were literate and...

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