Legacy Racial Uplift

The legacy of Wilmington 1898 included not only disfranchisement, but also widespread racial segregation. The U.S. Supreme Court had upheld Louisiana segregation laws in the famous court case, PLESSY v. FERGUSON, 163 U.S. 537 (1896). With the exception of the miscegenation and education laws, North Carolina white supremacists had less success institutionalizing segregation until after the 1898 massacre. In 1899, the Democratic party began a vigorous campaign to segregate the races by law. This video features a discussion of “Green Books” guides for black travelers to navigate highways and cities in Jim Crow North Carolina. Statutes provide substantial evidence of segregation, but the voices of the past truly reveal the impact of segregation on people’s everyday lives. North Carolina poet James T. McGirt (photo), author of Avenging the Maine, A Drunken A.B. and Other Poems, recalls the bitter ironies of freedom and equality in his poems published immediately after the massacre. Among his most poignant reflections of the impact of the “color line” upon America’s legacy of freedom include the title poem, “Avenging the Maine.” Another poem, “An Appeal,” is written in the voice of an emancipated slave to his former master. Decades later, these personal histories of segregation (audio) indicate the vivid and bitter reality of white supremacy and segregation on African Americans and whites of the mid-twentieth century.