1898 Sowing the Seeds

For victory against Populists and Republicans, Democrats needed to generate enough press to divert white men from the economic issues and bring attention to their white supremacy campaign. In August 1898, Alexander Manly, a descendant of Governor Charles Manly and editor of Wilmington’s leading black newspaper, the Daily Record, became their lightning rod. Manly was infuriated by Democratic newspapers that printed and reprinted an incendiary 1897 speech by Rebecca Latimer Felton of Georgia. Felton’s speech, replete with exaggerated stereotypes, is most infamous for her support of lynching. She provocatively elevated white women on a social pedestal and chastised white men, particularly Republicans, for failing to protect poor rural women from rape by black men. Outraged, Manly responded in an editorial that pointed to poor white women’s voluntary interaction with black men. He further accused Felton of hypocrisy for ignoring white men’s historical treatment of black women. His editorial elicited a response from an organization of African American women who showed appreciation for his remarks and strenuously advised other African American men to show “courage and manhood” by resisting white supremacist intimidation. However, when prominent white Wilmingtonians demanded that the African American community remove Manly from the community, a “Committee of Colored Citizens” (pdf) denounced his editorial and called it “obnoxious.” What stereotypes are perpetuated in Felton’s speech and how do the other documents challenge her stereotypes? How do these stereotypes relate to the court cases in “forbidden love” on the “Rising Tension” ticket?