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  • The Ghosts of 1898

    Ghosts of 1898 - Wilmington

    The Daily Record of Wilmington was reportedly the only black owned newspaper in America in 1898. White supremacists destroyed it, killed dozens of peaceful citizens, then posed for this photograph.

    Wilmington, North Carolina was a thriving progressive town in the early 1890s where whites, blacks and Indians worked and lived together. Wilmington was North Carolina’s successful hub of business and commerce led by an interracial coalition.

    The community built a new political party, the Fusion party, that was more progressive than either the Democratic party, which was controlled  by conservative white supremacists in North Carolina, or the Republican party, which was once the party of Lincoln.

    This rise of interracial progressive populism was a grave threat to the slave-wage labor economic model of the wealthy white land owners who had very effectively used racism to divide working class whites from blacks and Indians.

    If average white folks accepted black leadership and saw that their local economy thrived, elite white landowners and businessmen would lose much of their power. The feudalistic plantation system, that had ruled the south since the foundation of the republic, when the land was stolen from the Indians, was gravely threatened.

    The white supremacist elites could not allow a thriving interracial society to develop, but they had a problem. The African American population in the coastal plain was larger than the white population. The cotton plantations in the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plain depended on enslaved labor.

    There were more enslaved black laborers than white bosses and workers in eastern North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. The Fourteenth Amendment had given African Americans the right to vote and vote they did. To restore white supremacy and their power, the elites would have to find a way to slash the black vote.

    In the mid 1890’s the elites revived the white militias that were used by the Confederate States to terrorize enslaved people into submission. They dredged up the racist white dregs of North Carolina society to make gangs of white thugs called the Red Shirts.

    The Red Shirts, who lacked equestrian skills, were lower class  than the KKK. The Redshirts began to lynch and terrorize African Americans to keep them from voting and to put them in their place. The Redshirts were egged on by none other than Josephus Daniels owner of the Raleigh News and Observer.

    Over 100 years later the News and Observer published an unvarnished report that confessed their historic involvement in the white supremacist coup in Wilmington that set the stage for decades of lynchings and violence against African Americans.

    The Ghosts of 1898

    WILMINGTON’S RACE RIOT AND THE RISE OF WHITE SUPREMACY

    On Nov. 10, 1898, heavily armed columns of white men marched into the black neighbor-hoods of Wilmington. In the name of white supremacy, this well-ordered mob burned the offices of the local black newspaper, murdered perhaps dozens of black residents — the precise number isn’t known — and banished many successful black citizens and their so-called “white nigger” allies.

    A new social order was born in the blood and the flames, rooted in what The News and Observer’s publisher, Josephus Daniels, heralded as “permanent good government by the party of the White Man.”

    The Wilmington race riot of 1898 stands as one of the most important chapters in North Carolina’s history. It is also an event of national historical significance. Occurring only two years after the Supreme Court had sanctioned “separate but equal” segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson, the riot marked the embrace of virulent Jim Crow racism, not merely in Wilmington, but across the United States.
     
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    8/13/16- News & Observer Op-Ed  ‘As for Trump’s visit to NC, answering madness with morality

    Seabreeze Part 3 – With the Turn of the Century

    Freeman Family at Mt. Pilgrim Church

    Freeman Family at Mt. Pilgrim Church

    by Rebecca Taylor

    The Freeman Heirs

    In July 1902, Robert Bruce Freeman Jr., appeared in the New Hanover County Clerk of Court’s Office bearing his father’s will for probate.

    The surviving children (all sons) from Robert Bruce’s first marriage inherited most of the Old Homestead. Robert Bruce, Jr., Archie, Rowland, Nathan, and Ellis received fifty-seven acres each.

    Dulcia, the widow of Robert and Catherine’s son, Daniel Freeman, were granted lifetime rights in fifty-seven acres of the Old Homestead. Thereafter, the property was to be divided equally between Daniel and Dulcia’s children, Ida and Hattie. Lena was also given fifty-seven acres of the Old Homestead.

    Lena’s children were to “share and share alike” with Catherine’s children in all the lands outside of the Old Homestead while Lena’s children were not included in the Old Homestead division.”

    Unfortunately, the vagueness of the bequest to Lena’s children would haunt the family into the 21st Century.  As early as 1914 “the court appointed a Board of Commissioners to determine the boundaries for each tract. They decided that the tracts would run west to east, from the Cape Fear River to the Atlantic Ocean. This gave each heir access to the river, sound, ocean, and soil suitable for cultivation.”

    After Robert Bruce, Jr.’s death, Ellis Freeman, youngest son by his first marriage, took over management of the family lands. “He obtained a $50,000 government permit to sell yellow granite, and created a profitable business carrying people out on the ocean fishing.”

    The Beginning of Carolina Beach

    In the 1880’s Freeman gave Captain John Harper, owner of the steamer Wilmington and a partner in the New Hanover Transit Company, the right of way to build a railroad through his property at Carolina Beach in exchange for free train passes for the black people of the area.

    On March 11, 1887, W. L. Smith, Jr. bought a strip of land comprised of 24 acres for the amount of $66.50. These acres were between the head of Myrtle Grove Sound and the ocean beach. Today this land is located in the heart of the business district of the Town of Carolina Beach.

    The following year, 1888, the New Hanover Transit Company sponsored a free excursion to Carolina Beach for indigent and infirmed colored people in Wilmington. About five hundred people took the trip including church members from St. Stephen, St. Luke, St. Mark, Mount Olive, Central Baptist and Chestnut Street Presbyterian churches.

    In 1913, the Freeman heirs financed Alexander W. Pate and Joseph Laughlin a large tract with boundaries running from the end of the “old road bed of the New Hanover Transit Company’s railroad” to about 5,000 feet south of Sugar Loaf and then over to the beach.

    Seabreeze Established

    In the early 1920’s, Ellis Freeman, one of Robert, Sr.’s heirs, sold the first lots on the Seabreeze tract with full right of ingress and egress to and over any and all portion of the sea beach east of and across Myrtle Grove Sound.

    Seabreeze managed to promote black ownership of recreational property and businesses – something other black beaches in the country had been unsuccessful in doing in spite of well-organized attempts.”

    Seabreeze Beach ResortThe first beach structure called “Seabreeze” was built in 1922. It was about the time of the great boom in beachfront development. It was also a time of resurgent black pride and enterprise, the era of the Harlem Renaissance.

    Victoria Loftin

    Victoria Lofton

    Tom and Victoria Lofton, a prominent black couple from Wilmington, completed construction on the Russell Hotel, a twenty-five room, three-story hotel, restaurant and dance hall. Peter Simpson and his wife opened Simpson’s Hotel and development began to spring up all around.

    The Harlem-based, syndicated black columnist Geraldyne Dismond reported, to her surprise, cottages that resembled a “transplanted Seventh Avenue tea room, swank…bungalows and a sporting crowd dressed in linen suits and driving roadsters.”

    Seabreeze

    Daley Breezy Pavilion

    In the spring of 1929, the Wilmington Star reported that at Seabreeze, the Negro resort, a new hotel is under construction.

    According to residents of that section it will greatly facilitate the housing problem there during the season and an increase of the number of Negroes visiting this section is expected to result from the construction program.

    Then by February 1930 the Tide Water Power Company was extending poles from Wilmington to Seabreeze. And, by July of 1931 the Wilmington News was reporting that the North Carolina Negro Insurance Association held its annual convention at Seabreeze with speakers from Durham, Winston-Salem, Charlotte as well as smaller towns.