The Daily Record Project Digs Into Wilmington’s Buried History

Sep 11, 2019

Wilmington is the setting for some of North Carolina’s oldest history — including the only coup d’etat to ever take place in the United States. In 1898 a mob of armed, white supremacists torched the offices of the local black newspaper, killed many African American residents and overthrew the elected government.

The publication at the center of this riot was the Wilmington Daily Record, the only African American paper in town. A few months before the coup d’etat the paper’s editor Alex Manly published an editorial objecting to a speech given by a woman advocating for the lynching of black men to protect white women. The controversial piece asserted that it was unfair to portray black men as violent brutes.

While there has been a lot of reporting on several aspects of the coup d’etat, not much is known about The Daily Record itself. The Daily Record Project, launched by John Jeremiah Sullivan, aims to better document the paper’s history and what it can tell us about 1898. Sullivan is a contributing writer to the New York Magazine who worked with middle schoolers in Wilmington to uncover seven copies of the newspaper and compile a new edition.

Host Frank Stasio talks to Sullivan about the project and what kind of material they discovered. Sullivan is also the co-founder of Third Person Project, a nonprofit research collective based in Wilmington. Cash Michaels joins the conversation to talk about the black press and how The Daily Record fits into the larger context of African American newspapers in North Carolina. Michaels is a journalist who writes for publications across the state.