A North Carolina Republican leader on Sunday slammed Democrats for “murdering blacks” when he referenced the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot in several tweets that N.C. Democrat leadership called “unhinged.”
NCGOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse was responding to a tweet from the N.C. Democratic Party about the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.
“On this anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, let's celebrate how far we've come but remember that we must fight to keep moving forward,” the organization tweeted, along with a photo of former President Barack Obama, his family and others with the John Lewis quote “If you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something about it.”
“From the party that ran a racist campaign of murder and closed the polls to blacks who were Republicans, gaining power for 100 years,” Woodhouse said in one tweet.
“After they murdered blacks in Wilmington, (the N.C. Democratic Party) passed what they called the White Declaration of Independence,” Woodhouse wrote, adding that the party allegedly murdered black people and created a “grandfather clause” to keep survivors from voting.
“The Wilmington Riot of 1898 was not an act of spontaneous violence,” Woodhouse wrote. “The events of Nov. 10, 1898 were a result of the long-range campaign strategy by Democratic Party leaders to regain political control of Wilmington – at that time (the) state’s most populous city – and North Carolina in the name of white supremacy.”
N.C. Democratic Party chairman Wayne Goodwin responded to Woodhouse’s comments on Monday.
“This is unhinged even for the NCGOP, a party that is desperate to hide three words: illegal racial gerrymander,” Goodwin said in a statement. “The party that targets African Americans with ‘surgical precision’ has little to no credibility on this topic.”
A mob of white supremacists armed with rifles and pistols marched on City Hall in Wilmington, N.C., on Nov. 10 and overthrew the elected local government, forcing both black and white officials to resign and running many out of town. The coup was the culmination of a race riot in which whites torched offices of a black newspaper and killed a number of black residents. No one is sure how many African-Americans died that day because of a lack of records, but some estimates say as many as 90 were killed, and possibly hundreds more were expelled from the city.
Despite their defeat in 1865, Confederates still were devoted to white dominion. For many white Southerners, black citizenship remained unacceptable and justified any level of violence. Ku Klux Klan terrorism swept the South. As the federal government became increasingly reluctant to protect the rights of former slaves, white terrorism and electoral fraud brought about the end of Reconstruction. The Conservatives, who later changed their name to the Democrats, took power across the region by 1876, and worked hard to limit black voting.
The Wilmington insurgency, also known as the Wilmington Massacre of 1898, was planned by powerful white Democrats, after the party lost its grip on power in North Carolina four years earlier and planned to take back control from a biracial Republican Party in the 1898 elections. Southern Democrats campaigned that year on a platform of white supremacy and protecting white women from black men.
The statewide election in 1898 put Democrats back in power and the party began passing a series of Jim Crow laws in 1899, along with additional voting restrictions that would further disenfranchise blacks through a poll tax and literacy tests.
The “Solid South,” or the near monopoly the Democratic Party held over much of the South began to fall apart beginning in 1948 when some Southern Democrats who disapproved of desegregation and other policies of Democratic President Harry Truman formed the “States Rights Democratic Party” in support of then-South Carolina Gov. Strom Thurmond in his bid for the presidency.
So-called “Dixiecrats,” a segregationist party opposed to perceived federal government overreach and in favor of Jim Crow laws, were able to gain a foothold in several Southern states, but struggled to remain a prominent political party following the election.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also led to some Southern Democrats turning against Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson, voting for his opponent, Barry Goldwater.
Later years saw the Republican Party becoming more conservative while the Democratic Party grew more liberal, leading more and more conservative Democrats to vote Republican beginning at the national level and later at the state and local level.