An Interpretation of the Economic Impact of the Wilmington Riot of 1897

Over the years, scores of authors have written about the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot. Yet, the State of North Carolina has never formally investigated the insurrection. On the heels Florida’s investigation into the 1923 Rosewood Massacre, Oklahoma’s inquiry into the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, and the centennial of the Port City’s tragic event in 1898, the General Assem in 2000 enacted legislation calling for the creation of a commission to examine the riot and to develop a historical record. The law also called on the commission to delve into the “economic impact of the riot on African-Americans in this State.”

The 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission bill was sponsored by two Wilmington legislators, Senator Luther H. Jordan, who died in April 2002, and Representative Thomas E. Wright. The men developed the Commission to build upon earlier work done to commemorate the centennial anniversary in 1998, when local residents of both races participated in a variety of programs that brought renewed interest to the subject. The Commission is composed of thirteen members, appointed by the legislature, the governor, mayor and city council of Wilmington, and New Hanover County Board of Commissioners. Assisting the Commission with its work have been staff members of the Department of Cultural Resources, who have provided research and administrative assistance. This report is the culmination of three years of work by Commission members and staff of the Department of Cultural Resource.

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