Documenting the American South Logo
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Kojo Nantambu, May 15, 1978. Interview B-0059. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Wealth and power in Wilmington, North Carolina

Though almost a century had passed since the 1898 riots, Nantambu said that the same families still controlled Wilmington, operating now through the Committee of 100—a not-for-profit agency designed to attract industry to the area—or city representatives dependent on campaign donations.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Kojo Nantambu, May 15, 1978. Interview B-0059. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

... This is not the same Committee of 100 that was with the 1898 massacre. I used to feel like it was the same. I still feel like in some ways that they could be the same in their execution because they have the same powers, but right now the Committee of 100 serves the purpose of finding industry coming into Wilmington. You know, the city committee of 100 in 1898 was like the controlling families in Wilmington.
But aren't these the descendants, the same people that are in this now?
Yes. These are one hundred people who had the most authority, the most money, the most property in Wilmington. They made all the decisions. Like the Trask family, the Bellamy family ... These people still exist and they could have a profound effect on the total existence of Wilmington then because they controlled Wilmington, the day-to-day life, the future life, the overall life of Wilmington. Most of the city officials to me just represent these people; these are their puppets. They are put out there and say, "Look, you represent this particular group of the committee, you represent this particular group of the committee." The committee itself is broken up into groups, each one puts somebody out there, and everybody who runs as a city official generally represents the feelings and attitudes of the committee, the Committee of 100 or 400 or whatever.
They run this city?
Oh, yeah. Definitely. It's a known fact that Trask himself as an individual has stopped a lot of industry from coming to Wilmington. There's a known fact that the Sprunts and the Kings . They used to own Standard Oil Company. You know that. These people are there, but you don't hear about them. When things are happening--on a large political scale and some of them on a small scale--they just push their buttons, they just open their mouths, and things are done--or things are not done.