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Bishop Barber heads up, powerful 1898 Wilmington Massacre Symposium Panel

By Cash Michaels, Peacemaker Senior Contributor / November 9, 2023

1898 Wilmington Massacre

1898 Wilmington Massacre

Editor’s note: Our reporter, Cash Michaels, will be the moderator for this Saturday’s 125th Anniversary Commemoration of the 1898 Wilmington Race Massacre at Williston Middle School in Wilmington. The event is from 1 to 4 p.m., free and open to the public.

This Saturday, Nov. 11th, is the culmination of many, many months of hard work and sacrifice by members of the Wilmington Journal Breakfast Club, a group of committed citizens from across the state and in Wilmington, who have come together to affect positive change in Wilmington’s African American community.



The WJBC’s second symposium on the 1898 Wilmington Massacre this Saturday will feature a powerful panel, headed up by renowned national civil rights activist Bishop William J. Barber II, president of Repairers of the Breach, and co-convener of the national Poor People’s campaign; local historian and author Dr. Bertha Todd; Duke University History Prof. Dr. Timothy Tyson; NCCU Law Professor Irving Joyner: Rev. Robert Parrish, pastor of Gregory Congregational Church in Wilmington; and Ms. Inez Campbell-Eason, whose family are descendants of the 1898 tragedy.

The panel will discuss how, after 125 years this week, Wilmington’s Black community can begin the process to reclaim, rebuild and repair the economic, cultural and human rights status it once had.
The next day, Sunday, Nov. 12th at 2 p.m., Bishop Barber will preach a special sermon of racial unity at St. Luke’s A.M.E. Zion Church, 709 Church Street in Wilmington.

Regarding the WJBC, it is no accident that this community service group associates with, but is not officially or legally a part of the Wilmington Journal, North Carolina’s oldest African American newspaper. The Journal, under the leadership of founder R.S. Jervay, his son, publisher-editor Thomas C. Jervay Sr., and his daughter, publisher-editor Mary Alice Jervay Thatch, have always advocated for Wilmington’s African American community since it began in 1927 as the Cape Fear Journal.

Mrs. Thatch passed away in December, 2021 after a long illness. But before her death, she was also a staunch advocate for the Black Press, having won a “Publisher of the Year” Award from the National Newspaper Publishers Association, and served as president of the N.C. Black Publishers Association.
She also was a strong advocate for the true history of the 1898 Wilmington Race Massacre to be taught statewide in schools across North Carolina, so that all students could learn how, on November 10th, 1898, powerful White businessmen and politicians, in conspiracy with the so-called White supremacist “Red Shirts” and others, violently overthrew the Black-White “fusion” run government of Wilmington.
It was the only successful coup d’etat in United States history.

White racists, jealous of the tremendous progress African Americans had made in Wilmington after the Civil War, murdered many by Gatling gun, stealing homes, properties and businesses at gunpoint, and burned down the Daily Record, the local daily Black newspaper, forcing its Black publisher, Alexander Manley, to flee for his life.

Ms. Thatch wanted all North Carolina students to learn the truth about 1898, so that hopefully, Wilmington could one day be reborn for its African American community, which has suffered mightily since the massacre.

According to Attorney Irving Joyner, who was also vice chairman of the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission, Ms. Thatch was a “strong proponent” of the Commission’s efforts to uncover the truth, lending assistance to its work, which came out in a 2006 report.

“One of the Commission’s recommendations,” Attorney Joyner recalls, “… was that the 1898 history and report be made a part of the North Carolina standard curriculums in all schools.”

That did not happen. Instead, school systems statewide, to this day, allow teachers to instruct about 1898 if they want to, but they are not required.

In Wilmington/New Hanover County, third, fourth and eighth graders receive some 1898 instruction.
Three professors at UNC at Wilmington are preparing a course to actually instruct teachers on how to teach about 1898 to their students.

Lynn Mollenhauer, UNC-W History Dept. Chair, told the Wilmington Star News newspaper, “I think awareness of 1898 and the emphasis put on it in schools does wax and wane according to the political moment, especially within the White community in Wilmington.”

She’s referring to a current movement by conservative politicians to prohibit so-called “critical race theory” curriculum from public education.

Through the Mary Alice Jervay Thatch Memorial 1898 Student Essay Competition, where all New Hanover County students in grades 8 through 12 were challenged in September by the WJBC to submit a 500-word essay about the 1898 Wilmington Race Massacre, the community group hopes it has started the process of fulfilling the recommendation of the 1898 race riot commission, and the dream of Mary Alice Jervay Thatch for all school students to learn the truth about 1898.

The winner of the 1898 Student Essay Competition, 11th grader Emily Powell, 16, of Cape Fear Academy in Wilmington, may have said it best in her prize-winning writing:

“…[T]hose who explore the true facts of events like the 1898 Wilmington Race Riots are also heroes – of this event and of our future. By simply acknowledging these narratives, understanding them, and most importantly, learning from them, everyone can become protagonists of this story, promoting future progress and preventing history from repeating itself.”


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Since 1967, the Carolina Peacemaker has served as North Carolina’s leading news weekly with a national reputation. Founded by Dr. John Kilimanjaro, the newspaper is published by Carolina Newspaper, Inc.

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