A Look Back at the Wilmington 10

Racialicious guest contributor Lamont Lilly breaks down the history of the recently pardoned Wilmington 10 and how their story really began in 1898.

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The Wilmington 10 (Taro Yamasaki/Time & Life/Getty Images)

As many celebrate the recent pardon of the Wilmington 10, Racialicious guest contributor Lamont Lilly draws a link between their struggle and the city's history of Ku Klux Klan economic and racial violence.

The experiences of The Wilmington Ten actually date back to the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot, to a time of overt racial oppression and forced inequality. These race riots marked a new era of racist reign just two years after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Jim Crow segregation through Plessy v. Ferguson. This gave the green light to many Black and progressive whites being forcibly evicted from their homes by white supremacists and southern elitists.

The first order of business for local Klansmen was to break the backs of Wilmington's black working-class, to disenfranchise their economic stronghold, which by 1895 had just begun to thrive. At this time, Wilmington was the national symbol of Black hope. It was in Wilmington where Blacks owned land and openly participated in local politics.

In this small budding city on the outer banks of North Carolina, Blacks were crafts workers, tailors, and furniture makers. They were brick masons, teachers, and architects. They were plumbers, plasterers, and even owned a newspaperThe Daily Record. Blacks in Wilmington owned 20 of the city's 22 barbershops and one of the city's three real estate firms. As then the largest and most prominent city in NC, it also had a Black-majority population. At the close of the 19th century, Wilmington was one of the few cities in the U.S. were both Black and white people employed each other.

Read Lamont Lilly's entire piece at Racialicious.

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