The Only Successful Coup d'Etat in American History

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Wilmington on Fire movie poster
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Deep in the post-Civil War South, Wilmington, North Carolina was considered to be a "black mecca." 

"It was a very prosperous city," says Dr. Lewin Manly. "It was the largest city in North Carolina. It had a population in which the blacks outnumbered the whites. There was thriving commerce at the seaport. They had tradesmen in every trade you can think of. There were barbers. Almost all of the eating places were owned by blacks. There were blacks who were on the police force, fire department. They were just part of a real community.”

Dr. Lewin Manly is the grandson of Alex Manly, a prosperous African-American newspaper man in Wilmington at the end of the 19th century. Manly and the rest of the African-American community in Wilmington found themselves as the targets of the only successful coup d'etat in American history: The Wilmington Race Riots of November 1898, which removed the elected officials in the local government and replaced them with white supremacist lawmakers, who established Jim Crow throughout the state.

It's the subject of a new documentary out this week, "Wilmington on Fire," by Christopher Everett, a timely release as many citizens this week try to comprehend what many believe to be the "whitelash" of 2016.