Incitement to Riot 1898 – Cartoonist Chronicles

Racist Cartoons Help Incite an 1898 North Carolina Massacre
>> Warning: historically racist caricature and content <<

When a mob bent on insurrection stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, some onlookers labeled the event “unprecedented.”

But the United States has witnessed coups d’etat before—both attempted and successful—within its borders. In 1898, white supremacists in Wilmington, North Carolina, engineered an overthrow of the city government and killed at least sixty Black townspeople.

White Democrats in Wilmington had planned to overthrow their Reconstruction-era Republican leaders for months. As scholar and artist Rachel Marie-Crane Williams writes, these men used editorial cartoons to stoke racist violence against Wilmington’s Black residents. Similar to how white-supremacist Internet culture fueled the January 6 mob, these 1898 newspaper cartoons “constructed political meaning and, to some extent, social reality for readers.”

Josephus Daniels, editor of the News and Observer, which circulated widely in eastern North Carolina, hired cartoonist Norman Ethre Jennett to produce seventy-five editorial cartoons to stoke fears about Wilmington’s Black citizens between August and November of 1898. Together, Jennett and Daniels created a racist propaganda campaign to “create a rape scare, demonize and humiliate Black men and women, spread a violent white supremacist ideology and reclaim the North Carolina Legislature for the Democratic Party,” according to Williams.

The introduction to the above-linked article

One thought on “Incitement to Riot 1898 – Cartoonist Chronicles

  1. I’ve known about the Wilmington insurrection for some time, but the role of the editorial cartoons is news to me.

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