The 1898 riot that killed an unknown number of blacks in Wilmington was part of an organized, statewide effort to put white supremacist Democrats in office and stem the political advances of black citizens.
And in the wake of the riot, white supremacists in state office passed North Carolina's Jim Crow laws.
Those laws disenfranchised African Americans until the civil rights movement and Voting Rights Act of the 1960s.
In a 460-page document released today, the Wilmington Race Riot Commission describes the riot and accompanying coup d'etat as a watershed moment in North Carolina history.
"Because Wilmington rioters were able to murder blacks in daylight and overthrow Republican government without penalty or federal intervention, everyone in the state, regardless of race, knew that the white supremacy campaign was victorious on all fronts," the report says.
Democratic leaders, including News & Observer editor Josephus Daniels, developed a strategic campaign to put white supremacist leaders in the General Assembly and U.S. Congress during the 1898 elections. The Democrats were working to drive out a coalition government of Republicans and Populists, which had the support of black voters.
In Wilmington, Democrats fueled a push against a Republican-controlled city council. The day after the 1898 election, a mob of several hundred white men burned the building of a black-owned newspaper. African Americans in the city fled as the building burned, with families hiding in swamps and cemeteries for days with little more than the clothing on their backs, said LeRae Umfleet, a researcher with the state Office of Archives and History who authored the report.
The white mob overthrew the democratically elected city council and had all black city workers fired. Leading black figures were forced out of town.
No one was arrested for this act of rebellion against lawful authority during time of war (treaty negotiations to end the Spanish-American War were still underway in Paris), and Josephus Daniels, whose active support for white supremacy in the pages of his newspaper led to him being referred to by one historian as the "precipitator of the riot", eventually became Secretary of the Navy for the entire two terms of the Wilson administration.
So the next time you hear Democrats and their allies start talking about the "Bush regime" and "taking back our country", remember that this is their heritage -- they have done it before and will do it again given the chance.
Is it any wonder that they fear the Second Amendment -- for a well-armed citizenry is the bulwark against such nefarious deeds.