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Race & Demographics

The Truth Behind The Wilmington Massacre Of 1898

photo of writer David Zucchino
Becca Fox


Pulitzer Prize winner David Zucchino tackles Wilmington’s big lie in his latest book. Often called the Wilmington Massacre, early history described it as an unfortunate event where blacks were planning a race riot to overthrow whites. What history uncovered was a highly structured, highly coordinated coup planned by white supremacists to strip blacks of their newly-gained political power.

The attack left at least 60 dead and those complicit ranged from the local newspaper to prominent members of the North Carolina Democratic Party. Zucchino first began hearing about this story during the centennial anniversary of the coup. He went to high school in Fayetteville and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He wondered why had he never heard this story before and how this could have happened at all. In his latest book, “Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy” (Atlantic Monthly Press/2020), Zucchino tells both sides of the story. Through articles from white and black papers, diaries, personal letters and official correspondence,  Zucchino dissects a chilling moment in history. He joins host Frank Stasio to shed light on what these documents reveal. Zucchino’s North Carolina book tour begins Tuesday, Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill. He will also stop in Wilmington at the New Hanover County Public Library on Saturday, Jan. 18 at 2 p.m., in Raleigh at Quail Ridge Books on Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 7 p.m., in Greensboro at Scuppernong Books on Friday, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. and in Asheville at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe on Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 6 p.m.


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