1898 Monument and Memorial Park, Wilmington
Ayokunle Odeleye, Stone Mountain, Georgia , Designer
Marianne Weinburg Benson, John Benson and Associates, Atlanta, Georgia, Designer
Odeleye Sculpture Studios, Stone Mountain, Georgia, Sculptor
The 1898 Memorial commemorates the coup d’état in which prominent white citizens of Wilmington overthrew the legally elected biracial government of the city. It consists of an arc of six elongated, 16-feet tall freestanding bronze paddles fronted by a two section low, curved wall also of bronze. Incised into the top of the wall is a rather lengthy text describing the historical events. In front of each paddle is a small lectern shaped bronze box. This array stands on a large concrete circle with a primary brick walkway leading to the memorial from the parking area. A plaque placed near the parking area explains that the paddles refer to the role of water in “the spiritual belief system of people from the African continent.” To the right of the memorial is brick and concrete circle framed with a brick wall and three short columns. This feature is called the “Peace Circle.” Two of the columns hold bronze plaques listing donors to the project. This feature is repeated to the memorial’s left and is called the “Hope Circle” with three plaques listing donors.
Images: Hope Circle | Peace Circle | Paddle symbolism | Sculptor plaque | Far-off view | Side view | Wall section | Close-up view of paddles
Wall, left section: IN 1898 WILMINGTON’S AFRICAN-AMERICAN MAJORITY INCLUDED MEMBERS OF A GROWING MIDDLE CLASS / WHO SERVED IN THE MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT, THE CITY'S CIVIL SERVICE, AND IN STATE AND / FEDERAL GOVERNMENTAL POSITIONS. ON NOVEMBER 10, 1898, AN ARMED MOB OF WHITES LED BY / SOME OF WILMINGTON'S MOST PROMINENT CITIZENS REMOVED FROM OFFICE THE CITY'S DULY ELECTED / BIRACIAL GOVERNMENT IN WHAT HISTORIANS CONSIDER THE ONLY SUCCESSFUL COUP D'ETAT IN THE / HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES.
BETWEEN 1894 AND 1896, A REPUBLICAN-POPULIST COALITION TOOK CONTROL OF THE STATE / GOVERNMENT AND SEVERAL CITY GOVERNMENTS, IN PART BY APPEALING TO AFRICAN AMERICANS. DEMOCRATS / INITIATED A COUNTERATTACK IN 1898, APPEALING TO WHITE VOTERS’ RACIAL FEARS / AND PORTRAYING WILMINGTON, THEN THE STATE'S LARGEST CITY, AS AN EXAMPLE OF THE DANGERS / OF "NEGRO RULE." THE DEMOCRATIC PRESS DEPICTED AFRICAN-AMERICAN MALES AS A THREAT TO / "SOUTHERN WOMANHOOD," A CHARGE DENIED BY ALEXANDER MANLY'S RECORD, THE STATE'S ONLY DAILY BLACK / NEWSPAPER. THE DAY FOLLOWING THE ELECTIONS OF NOVEMBER 8, A WHITE MOB GATHERED AT / THE COURTHOUSE AND ADOPTED THE "WHITE MAN'S DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.”
IT DEMANDED THAT THE CITY RETURN TO AN ALL WHITE ADMINISTRATION, THAT THE RECORD CEASE / PUBLICATION AND THAT ALEX MANLY BE BANISHED. WHITE LEADERS PRESENTED THE “DECLARATION” / TO PROMINENT AFRICAN AMERICANS, DEMANDING A RESPONSE WITHIN TWELVE HOURS. MAILED / RATHER THAN HAND DELIVERED, THEIR REPLY ARRIVED TOO LATE.
Wall, right section: ON THE MORNING OF NOVEMBER 10, A MOB OF ARMED WHITES BURNED THE RECORD TO THE / GROUND, THEN TURNED ITS FURY AND GUNS ON THE CITY'S AFRICAN-AMERICAN POPULATION. AT / LEAST TEN BLACKS DIED IN THE VIOLENCE, SCORES MORE ACCORDING TO AFRICAN-AMERICAN ORAL / TRADITION. HUNDREDS OF MEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN FLED TO SURROUNDING SWAMPS AND FORESTS IN / SEARCH OF SAFETY. WHITES EXPELLED FROM THE CITY BOTH BLACK AND WHITE POLITICAL AND BUSINESS / LEADERS WHO WERE OPPOSED TO DEMOCRATIC RULE AND WHITE SUPREMACY. THE FEDERAL GOVERN- / MENT IGNORED AFRICAN-AMERICAN APPEALS FOR PROTECTION, SIGNALING DEMOCRATS THROUGHOUT / THE SOUTH THAT IT WOULD NO LONGER PROTECT BLACKS FROM WHITE VIOLENCE.
WILMINGTON'S 1898 RACIAL VIOLENCE WAS NOT ACCIDENTAL. IT BEGAN A SUCCESSFUL STATEWIDE / DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN TO REGAIN CONTROL OF STATE GOVERNMENT, DISENFRANCHISE AFRICAN / AMERICANS, AND CREATE A SYSTEM OF LEGAL SEGREGATION WHICH PERSISTED INTO THE SECOND HALF / OF THE 20TH CENTURY.
THIS MONUMENT SERVES AS A SYMBOL OF WILMINGTON'S COMMITMENT TO AN INCLUSIVE SOCIETY, / A TRIBUTE TO ALL WHO OVER THE YEARS HAVE STRUGGLED TO REVERSE THE TRAGIC CONSEQUENCES OF THE / 1898 RACIAL VIOLENCE, AND A MEMORIAL TO THOSE AFRICAN AMERICANS KILLED IN THAT VIOLENCE.
Wall, right section centered beneath historical inscription: FOUNDERS CIRCLE: BB&T, BONEY ARCHITECTS-LS3P, DR. JAMES BROWN, HUGH MACRAE II, PROGRESS ENERGY / IN MEMORY OF ALICE MOORE SISSON, SUNTRUST BANK, WACHOVIA FOUNDATION, SARAH LEE WHITE, WILMINGTON STAR-NEWS
Paddle Symbolism Plaque: THESE SIX BRONZE PADDLES STAND AS A MEMORIAL TO THOSE WHO SUFFERED AS A RESULT OF THE / VIOLENCE OF NOVEMBER 1898. THE PADDLES REFER SYMBOLICALLY TO WATER, AN IMPORTANT / ELEMENT IN THE SPIRITUAL BELIEF SYSTEM OF PEOPLE FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT. THEY / BELIEVED WATER TO BE THE MEDIUM FOR MOVING FROM THIS LIFE TO THE NEXT. WATER IS ALSO / INCORPORATED INTO A DIVERSITY OF BELIEFS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD TO SYMBOLIZE PURIFICATION, RENEWAL, REBIRTH, FORGIVENESS, CLEANSING AND WHOLENESS.
FOR THIS CITY THAT GREW UP BESIDE THE WATERS OF THE CAPE FEAR RIVER, THESE PADDLES SYMBOLIZE A / TYPE OF PASSAGE AS WELL. THE MEMORIAL STANDS HERE ON THE BANKS OF THIS RIVER AS A / TESTIMONIAL TO A COMMUNITY THAT, ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER, STROVE TO ACKNOWLEDGE / INJUSTICES OF THE PAST AND WORKED TO MOVE FORWARD TOGETHER TOWARDS A SOCIETY OF GREATER / JUSTICE AND INCLUSIVENESS FOR ALL ITS CITIZENS.
“WE BELIEVE THESE SLENDER YET STRONG PADDLES THOUGH ROOTED IN THIS SOIL OF PAST / MEMORIES, RISE SKYWARD TO THE FUTURE IN A SPIRIT OF RECONCILIATION AND HOPE.” / MEMBERS OF THE 1898 FOUNDATION / NOVEMBER 8, 2008
Sculptor Plaque: THE 1898 MEMORIAL / DESIGNED BY / AYOKUNLE ODELEYE / MARIANNE WEINBURG BENSON / JOHN BENSON AND ASSOCIATES / FABRICATED BY / ODELEYE SCULPTURE STUDIOS / 2008
City of Wilmington
November 8, 2008
34.248390 , -77.947510 View in Geobrowse
Zucchino, David. Wilmington's Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy. New York: Atlantic Monthly, 2020.
Carrier, Sarah. Researching the Wilmington 1898 Massacre and Coup, UNC University Libraries, 2021, (accessed February 21, 2021) Link
Cecelski, David S., and Timothy B. Tyson. Democracy Betrayed: The Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 and Its Legacy. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.
North Carolina, and LeRae Umfleet. 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Report. [Raleigh, N.C.]: Research Branch, Office of Archives and History, N.C. Dept. of Cultural Resources, 2006, (accessed February 22, 2021) Link
Prather, H. Leon. We Have Taken a City: Wilmington Racial Massacre and Coup of 1898. Wilmington, NC: NU World Enterprises, 1998.
Scott, Sam. “1898 Memorial Finally Takes Shape," Starnews Online, www.starnewsonline.com, July 11, 2008 (accessed November 26, 2016) Link
Umfleet, LeRae S. A Day of Blood: The 1898 Wilmington Race Riot, UNC Press, 2020. Link
Upton, Dell. "African-American Monuments and Memorials," from “Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina”, http://docsouth.unc.edu/commland/, (accessed May 16, 2012) Link
“A Guide to Wilmington’s African-American Heritage,” City of Wilmington, 2013
“About the Artist,” Odeleye Sculpture Studios, http://www.odeleyesculpturestudios.com, (accessed November 26, 2016) Link
Bronze, brick, concrete
Ayokunle Odeleye has been working as a professional sculptor and arts educator for the past thirty eight years. He is currently a senior Professor of Art at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia.
After the book We Have Taken A City was published in 1984 awareness of the 1898 events became known to a wider audience. State representative Thomas Wright sponsored legislation in the General Assembly that led to a state report on the riot and its outcome.
State representative Thomas Wright succeeded in delaying fund-raising for several years because he disagreed with the chosen site.
The 1898 Monument and Memorial Park are located at 1081 North 3rd Street, Wilmington, NC.
The memorial complex stands in a park, surrounded by trees and seasonal greenery.