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(1898) Rev. Charles S. Morris Describes The Wilmington Massacre of 1898

Long termed a “race riot,” the turmoil that enveloped Wilmington, North Carolina on November 10, 1898 is now called an armed insurrection. White supremacists drove from power all of the black and white elected officials of this predominately African American city in what was believed to be the only violent overthrow of a local government in United States history. Twenty-two blacks were killed during the insurrection and hundreds of African American citizens were forced to flee the city, many of whom never returned. What appears below is a rare eyewitness account provided by Rev. Charles S. Morris who became one of the refugees from the city. Morris provided the account in a speech in January 1899 before the International Association of Colored Clergymen meeting in Boston.

Nine Negroes massacred outright; a score wounded and hunted like par¬tridges on the mountain; one man, brave enough to fight against such odds would be hailed as a hero anywhere else, was given the privilege of run¬ning the gauntlet up a broad street, where he sank ankle deep in the sand, while crowds of men lined the sidewalks and riddled him with a pint of bullets as he ran bleeding past their doors; another Negro shot twenty times in the back as he scrambled empty handed over a fence; thousands of women and children fleeing in terror from their humble homes in the dark¬ness of the night, out under a gray and angry sky, from which falls a cold and bone chilling rain, out to the dark and tangled ooze of the swamp amid the crawling things of night, fearing to light a fire, startled at every foot¬step, cowering, shivering, shuddering, trembling, praying in gloom and terror: half clad and barefooted mothers, with their babies wrapped only in a shawl, whimpering with cold and hunger at their icy breasts, crouched in terror from the vengeance of those who, in the name of civilization, and with the benediction of the ministers of the Prince of Peace, inaugurated the reformation of the city of Wilmington the day after the election by driving out one

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