One of the only successful coup d’états in American history took place in Wilmington, yet many North Carolinians have never heard about it.
Action NC and Durham NAACP are hosting a screening of “Wilmington on Fire" on Thursday, Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. at the Full Frame Theater in Durham.
“Wilmington on Fire,” a film directed by Christopher Everett, tells the story of the Wilmington Massacre. The massacre took place on Nov. 10, 1898 when a white mob backed by the North Carolina Democratic Party overthrew the local government that had brought Black and white citizens together.
“The reason behind the Massacre was to break up the coalition between whites and Blacks,” Everett said.
Everett came up with the idea of making the film when he was researching acts of racially motivated mass violence. He said that many of the events he came across he was already familiar with, but he had never heard of the Wilmington Massacre.
“I wanted to accomplish getting the history and the knowledge out there,” Everett said.
The documentary explores a violent overthrow of the government in Wilmington and the destruction of local businesses owned by African-Americans.
“It’s not something we find when we go to a history class in our middle schools and high schools in North Carolina,” said Durham NAACP President Roland Staton.
The primary motivation behind the screening is to educate people on this overlooked part of history.
“When I did some research on it when it first came out, I had never heard about it,” said Gloria De Los Santos, the Durham director of Action NC. “And when I did hear about it, it was really shocking.”
Action NC is an activism group that focuses on poverty, underdevelopment and socioeconomic inequality. They provide programs that educate people on institutional and structural racism.
“This story needs to be a part of our discussion on where we come from and where we are going with race relations in North Carolina,” Staton said.
The film's message is still relevant today.
“There’s a lot of tension around race relations right now,” De Los Santos said. “There’s a lot of tension around politics right now and, back in that time, it was around a political time. If you look at the past and the present, a lot of these issues and racial tensions are formulating around politics.”
The Action NC, Durham NAACP and Everett all hope that the screenings will help foster better race relations in the future.
“The American dream is a work in progress,” Staton said. “Even in America, hate and fear can take our dream and turn it into a nightmare.”
Overall, the organizers want the screening to help bring people together and encourage discussion.
“I hope that people will be educated and see that we still have a lot of work to do,” Everett said.
There will be another screening of “Wilmington on Fire,” as well as “Black Beach/White Beach” — another of Everett’s films, which deals with government treatment of predominantly black and predominantly white motorcycle festivals in Myrtle Beach — held at Cat’s Cradle on Sunday, Feb. 18 at 5 p.m.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.