New bid to find truth about old race riot in NC

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For more than a century, the only violent overthrow of a local government in US history has been hidden in mystique.

Now, a new report challenges the view that held sway for many years - that a provocative statement about white women and black men by a mixed race (then known as mulatto) newspaper editor caused the 1898 riot in a South gripped by fears of miscegenation.

As a horse-drawn machine-gun regiment fired into crowds and frightened blacks fled into the cold swamps, the dream of a Reconstructed South died on the streets of Wilmington, N.C., on Nov. 10, 1898 - more than 30 years after Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox ended the Civil War.

The uprising began a day after the election in Wilmington, then North Carolina's largest city. The city's Democrats, who regained power from the Republicans, proceeded to wrest control of the government immediately. Supported by para-military networks, historians now say, white Democratic leaders staged a planned insurrection resisted by bands of black men. The party mob, which grew to as many as 2,000, smashed the press and toppled kerosene lamps in a black newspaper office, setting the press ablaze. As many as 100 people were killed in the race riot.

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