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Right-Wing Film On 1898 Wilmington Massacre Focuses On White Couple’s ‘Love Story’

Source: WFAE-FM

The Raleigh-based right-wing think tank John Locke Foundation recently released a short film about the 1898 Wilmington massacre that focuses on a “fast-paced love story” between a white couple, and not on the mass murder of the city’s Black residents.

Anybody who knows anything about the Wilmington massacre knows that above all else, it was not a love story. Unfortunately, many people – even North Carolinians – know hardly anything about the events of Nov. 8, 1898.

It was on that day, in an orchestrated response to the rise of a thriving Black middle class with growing political power in a southern city, violent white supremacists attacked and killed Black citizens, banished locals from the city and overthrew the local government, placing white men in those seats.

Historian Lynn Mollenauer teaches at UNC Wilmington and is co-director of UNCW’s 1898 Legacies and Futures Research Collective. She described the massacre in an interview with WFAE-FM:

“You’ve got this mob of armed white men who’ve just burned down [the Daily Record] and this mob has been whipped up into a frenzy. Then the mob marches off towards the majority Black neighborhood and they begin to shoot people, starting at the intersection of Fourth and Harnett. You have Black folks who are fleeing into churches, looking for sanctuary. Some ran into the Black cemetery to hide.”

Alexander Manly was the owner and editor of the Daily Record and escaped before his offices were burned. Dr. Lewin Manly, 91, is Manly’s grandson. He told WFAE that his two great-aunts spoke about the horror of that day to only a few people.

“They were in school the day this happened and their older brother had to go to the school to bring them home,” Manly said. “They saw the mayhem in the streets as they went home, people being shot down, the bloody mess that was occurring. And, apparently, they suffered from [PTSD] for the rest of their lives. I tried my best to get them to talk about it and they would not. They would just freeze up.”

As noted by scholars, the massacre and coup marked a significant turning point in North Carolina and U.S. history. The violent act was a direct threat to other local Black communities, and it was the start of Jim Crow laws in the state, which prompted increased racial segregation.

Despite its startling impact reverberating for generations of Black residents, the white supremacist mob was cast as heroes in history textbooks for decades, with Wilmington’s thriving Black community wrongly described as instigators.

According to The Atlantic, it took nearly a century for the public to become aware of what had happened. This movie will only confuse people who aren’t knowledgeable about this pivotal event in history.

Mollenauer watched the film’s trailer and said she found the love story theme offensive.

“The story of 1898 is not a story that can be told through the eyes of two young lovers, who are white,” Mollenauer said. “It is not a story of thwarted love but is an American story. We do not do it justice by shielding the audience from its horrors. I wonder how we can learn anything about ourselves and past events if they are not represented in a way we can comprehend it.”

According to WFAE, the movie has been shown at film festivals outside of the U.S., but only in a few North Carolina cities – Wilmington not included.


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