The content included in this source may be disturbing to some viewers and/or contain outdated language. This is a statement from Reverend J. Allen Kirk, an African American minister who escaped Wilmington, on what he experienced during the Wilmington Massacre. He often speaks in the third person when referring to himself.
…This riot not only touched the Negro, but it touched the Republican party, for it compelled the Republican Mayor, Chief of Police, their Aldermen, their policemen, and all to resign their offices and be sent away from the city; that is to say, the Mayor and other prominent white leaders. It is supposed that John C. Dancy is in danger in Wilmington, N. C.
White ministers carried their guns to kill Negro Christians and sinners. The mob took the leading colored ministers and compelled them to go around the city with them and ask the colored people to be obedient to the white people and go in their homes and keep quiet. This was a great humiliation for us and a shame upon our denominations; and after all this some of them were compelled to leave the city….
It is generally supposed by the better white citizens, that the Negroes who suffer at the hands of these atrocious mobs, are of the lower or vicious class of our race, but in the case of Wilmington, N. C., the reverse is the truth. For the colored citizens of Wilmington were progressive and enterprising and were characterized by their endeavor to live as worthy citizens. They are property holders, averaging from five to forty thousand dollars, respectively. From their ranks were furnished teachers, lawyers, physicians, clergymen, merchants and business men. The intellectuality of the colored citizens is…recognized by the conservative white people of the city and State. The pastors of the colored churches were recognized by white and colored as the most able divines that ever stood in the pulpits of Wilmington. The membership of the various denominations loved and respected their pastors, because of their ability to lead them in truth and right. There was a great lamentation heard throughout the city when the mob got hold of some of the leading pastors and took them from their members. Their shrieks could be heard across the city in exclamations like these: O! O! My God! My God! Where have they taken our pastor!–from men and women.
The white people of Wilmington intended to remove all the able leaders of the colored race, stating that to do so would leave them better and obedient servants among the Negroes; and all the better class of the colored citizens were driven from the city, showing to the world that they were…after the…professional and business men. The whites claim that Dr. I. S. Lee, D. D., Rev. Dr. J. Allen Kirk, and lawyer W. E. Henderson were the strongest forces at the head of their race in the city. These and many others with them were driven and sent away from the city.
This postscript is to show to the white and colored people of these United States and the world, that the…families of our race have been assailed and routed like beasts from their God given positions as leaders of their race.
Citation: Kirk, Rev. J. Allen. “A Statement of Facts Concerning the Bloody Riot in Wilmington, N. C. Of Interest to Every Citizen of the United States, [1898?].” Documenting the American South. 2002. University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. https://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/kirk/kirk.html. Accessed 19 June 2023.
- Find a piece of evidence in the passage that helps explain why the mob targeted the successful leaders and businessmen among African Americans in Wilmington according to Kirk.
- Why do you think some white politicians and leaders were also forced to resign and leave Wilmington?
- Give an example of Kirk’s use of strong emotional language in the passage and explain why you think he used it.
Aldermen: elected position similar to city council
John C. Dancy: the African American collector of customs in Wilmington who checked goods coming into the port from other countries
Denominations: different branches of a religion
Divines: ministers or men who lead religious services
Dr. I. S. Lee, D. D., Rev. Dr. J. Allen Kirk, and lawyer W. E. Henderson: various African American leaders in Wilmington
Lamentation: loud or passionate expression of grief
Pulpit: stand or platform in a church used for speaking
Postscript: additional statement at the end of a letter or document
Assailed and routed: attacked and forced to leave