Why the book ‘Wilmington’s LIE’ and the events of 1898 are relevant today

Understanding the past often identifies how the same goals that created our segregated society are still at work today.
Wilmingtons-LIE

CANCELLED: Your safety is important. Due to the inclement weather and flooding, tonight’s event at First Baptist Church-West has been cancelled. It will be reschedule as soon as possible. Stay safe!


Equitable Communities CLT was founded after last year’s successful community book read of “The Color of Law” by Richard Rothstein. We believed then, as we believe today, that understanding our factual history – not what we were taught — is crucial to developing enduring actions that reverse the historical trends of wealth and income discrimination.

Understanding the past often identifies how the same goals that created our segregated society are still at work today. The methods may have evolved, the words may have changed, but the underlying negative outcomes are still being achieved. Without discerning the repeating patterns, we risk getting the same results.

“Wilmington’s LIE” by David Zucchino reveals the true history of the 1898 events in Wilmington, N.C. He describes key individuals from both sides and how abstract goals affected individual lives. The facts document the murder of more than 60 Black residents of Wilmington and the violent overthrow (coup) of a racially integrated government. Today, while our society may have evolved to not allow such overt actions, the underlying goal of maintaining economic power by the few at the expense of the many is still at work.

Zucchino documents the overt planning, with detailed implementation strategies, that led to the chilling events.  He aligns the goals of regaining white power with extreme tactics, including manipulation of the press and the stirring of public emotions.

Meanwhile, limitations placed on Blacks who wanted to buy guns (or exercise their Second Amendment right) left them incapable of effectively defending themselves. Finally, Zucchino illuminates the lingering impact of those tactics and methods on Wilmington and the United States today.

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Unfortunately, we find some of the same tactics being used today to maintain control of economic power, with goals of limiting the economic growth and development of minorities in society. The words used to describe the actions may have changed, but the goals have not. You might even recognize some of them — attempts to undermine trust in government institutions, minority intimidation, manipulation of the facts, limiting voting rights, and limiting access to education and jobs. 

We at Equitable Communities CLT strive to illuminate the lessons of history and how they impact today’s reality. With the aid of detailed data, we seek to promote pragmatic solutions and actions to make measurable progress.

QCity Metro will facilitate a discussion on Feb. 20 with Zucchino, author of “Wilmington’s LIE.” That event will include a panel of journalists to discuss media literacy in the age of divided politics and social media. This event will be held at First Baptist Church West. For more details, visit equitablecommunitiesclt.org/events


Peter and Mary Kelly are cofounders of Equitable Communities CLT, an advocacy organization founded on the belief that informed conversation leads to better decision making.

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