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You're listening to American Shadows, a production of I Heart Radio and Greyman miles from Aaron Minkey. As a rule, people are afraid of change, with change comes uncertainty, a feeling that life is out of control as creatures of habit, the status quo feels safer and there are often consequences from prior actions to consider.
It's easy to see that fear can be a strong motivator. Such was the case in Louisiana in 1872, like the rest of the south, the end of the civil war brought economic, social and political changes known as the reconstruction era. White Southerners struggled to adjust to life that didn't include slavery or Confederate secession. As the nation's political powers began to shift, some felt that elections were their only voice. 1872 was also the year the gubernatorial election in Louisiana pitted lawyer and conservative Democrat John McHenry against Republican Senator William Kellogg before Election Day, rumors of intended voter fraud began to circulate, adding to the turmoil and resentment.
It came as no surprise then that when McHenry was declared the winner, Republicans contested the accuracy of the ballots and filed a complaint a federal court decided in the Republicans favor and reversed the election results, putting Kellogg in power. And some members of the public thought the federal government had not only interfered, that dismissed the will of the voters. Back then, the Republican Party was considered liberal and it wasn't particularly popular with the conservative segments of the South.
Lincoln had been a Republican after all, and Kellogg's political base was primarily black, which didn't go over well with some of Louisiana's population who harbored resentment from being on the losing end of the war. In an attempt to keep some sense of control, Democrats ignored the Republican victory and established a shadow government in January of 1873. McHenry called upon the volunteer militia to attack the Metropolitan Police and overthrow Kellogg's government by force. When the coup failed, the police broke up the shadow government, though no arrests were made and McHenry went unpunished.
With Kellogg's enforcement of civil rights legislation, some white people in the South harbored a fear that black people would soon retaliate and dominate their way of life. The White League formed and assembled enough men to defeat the state militia and the Metropolitan Police. The group released propaganda playing on citizens fears regarding the state's direction. A call for volunteers to rise up began in earnest. And 1500 men, many of whom were bitter soldiers from the war, signed up. Others who had been raised to believe in the tyranny of the federal government also joined word leaked to the Metropolitan Police that the league planned on receiving a large shipment of arms on September 14th of 1874.
A confrontation was brewing at the worst possible time during an outbreak of yellow fever. On September 13th, the league announced a meeting of the people at the intersections of Rail and Canal Streets and St. Charles Avenue, 5000 people showed up, each chanting and calling for Kellogg's resignation. Kellogg refused. The White League promptly severed the telegraph lines. The mob headed downtown where they clashed with the Metropolitan Police within 15 minutes, the league had control of the city. 18 people were dead and countless others injured.
With the city overtaken, the league set up their own government. With the risk of yellow fever looming, the federal government arrived soon after and reinstated Kellogg as governor. Despite the second KU's failure, the White League had done what they set out to accomplish. The Metropolitan Police Force was shattered and national opinion on Kellogg was split. Federal government was the only thing keeping him in power. But this conflict wasn't the first attempted coup on American soil and sadly, it wouldn't be the last.
I'm Lauren Bob. Welcome to American Shadows. The port city along the Cape Fear River had seemingly adjusted to life after the Civil War, many emancipated people found the town of Wilmington, North Carolina, a good place to call home. They set up shops alongside white owned businesses, purchased fine homes with lace curtains and pianos, and some were wealthy enough to have servants. They found jobs as health inspectors and sorted and delivered mail alongside white female clerks, all but one of the city's restaurants where black owned 90 percent of the barbers were black.
And so are 30 percent of the skilled laborers. The black police officers could arrest white people, the jailer, coroner and county treasurer were black. In 1891, President Benjamin Harrison appointed John C. Darsey, a black Republican, as the federal customs collector for the Port of Wilmington. African-American holidays were celebrated without fear of retaliation. The city had one of the highest literacy rates among black people in the state, while almost a quarter of the state's white population was still illiterate.
In 1895, black and white people alike packed the Opera House side by side to hear poetry, listen to choirs and hear Patrick Henry speech on liberty and death. That's not to say racism didn't exist, it did, but Wilmington had a reputation of being one of the most progressive cities for its time when it came to race. Alexander Manley was a North Carolina native, and those who passed him on the street probably assumed he was white, but Alec's family had both white and black family.
His grandmother had been an enslaved woman, the property of his grandfather, the former state governor, Charles Manley. Charles had released all his children from slavery and granted them farmland and farming equipment. According to the 1890 census, Alex grew up in a successful working class household. He attended the Hampton Normal and Agriculture Institute in Virginia. When he returned home, though, finding work in his hometown of Raleigh proved difficult, so he moved to Wilmington. There, he found social, political and economic prospects more to his liking, instead becoming a laborer.
He set up the city's only black newspaper called The Daily Record. By the mid 80s, 90s, Alex Manley dove into the political fray, writing articles that challenged white power structures and for some, the paper posed no threat.
It even had plenty of white advertisers who called Manley a friend. By the late 1990s, the Daily Record had become immensely popular. Manley was appointed to Deputy Register of Deeds, and he taught Sunday school had even fallen in love and was set to marry for manly. Life was good right up until August of 1898. That's when one Rebecca Latimer Felton, a prominent suicidal woman who believed in prison reform, women's suffrage and white supremacy, gave a speech on lynching as a form of punishment for black men who assaulted white women.
She also insisted that giving black men the right to vote led directly to these assaults. And the conservative Democratic Party delighted in her speech and in newspapers printing it, they knew that small fires often grow.
Her words helped fuel fear among the ill informed white population and furthered their political agenda to reduce black rights and equality. We won't go into all of what Felton's speech entailed, but it's safe to say that it did not sit well with Alex Manley. He debated posting his response and deciding it was worth the risk, fired back with an editorial in his own paper. In it, he called out Belton's and other white writers and speakers racist pretense that only black men or based on the guilt of a few all black men are criminals who commit assault.
He turned her own words against her, agreeing with Felton that women should receive better educations in order to prevent abuse and that white women should in general be better treated by white men. Cannily pointing out not just Felton's racism but her sexist placement of white women as white men's property. And he addressed the larger cultural discourse about interracial relationships, asserting the reality that white women sometimes fall in love with black men. In the end, his response was a lengthy and biting one.
And the city had never read anything like it. Democratic Party Chairman Furnivall Simmons, who had been placed in charge of developing a campaign strategy for North Carolina's 1898 election, saw an opportunity to return power to the Democrats could use the easiest method, possible fear. He'd use Manley's response to see discord among the population about a potential black uprising since the Republican Party had several black leaders, kindling a racial divide would mean more votes for the predominantly white Democrats. Simmons recruited media outlets sympathetic to his cause, then he hired speakers to spread rumors, fear and misconceptions.
One of those men was Alfred Waddell, a former congressman and die hard white supremacist, adept at inciting racism, shaming so-called race traitors and painting the Republicans as liberals set out to destroy white citizens way of life. Wadle had a long reputation for being combative and power hungry during the Civil War. He became part of the white resistance, and while serving as congressman, he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, had grown up wealthy, wanting for nothing.
His family hadn't been a stranger to politics either. His grandfather had been a U.S. Supreme Court justice. Though Waddell had once been in the political limelight as a lawyer, historian and public speaker, had long faded, had long since faded from the public eye, Simmons' offer had put him back into the spotlight and Wadle wasted no opportunity to speak.
As the election approached, he employed a group known as the White Government Union, who began demanding that every white man in Wilmington join any method would do shame, fear and even bullying those who befriended or stood alongside the black population under the beliefs that the few Geneste Republican political party reforms had been fixed and that the laws favored black people over white people. Nine men banded together. Known as the Secret Nine, they began to work closely with Bardell to present the black community as insolent and disrespectful.
The Republican Party, due to their sympathy with the black community, was effectively painted in the same light that August. The atmosphere in the city shifted and tension grew as thick as the humidity. Neighbors, once friendly, began to look at each other differently. Manly fully expected a backlash from his rebuttal to Felton. Little came, although he could feel a storm brewing. Everyone could. What they didn't know was just how catastrophic it would be. The Winchester Repeating Arms Company in New Jersey received a couple of alarming requests in mid-September of 1898, two men in Wilmington placed an order for dozens of 16 shot pistols.
The company manager had read the headlines about the upcoming election. Given the party tactics and placement in the South, he figured a race war was brewing. He refused to fulfill the orders and promptly contacted the rally newspaper. Unfortunately, the paper saw a headline grabbing story and printed the companies concern as proof that black men were buying guns and planning an uprising against the white community. The odd thing, though, the manager never revealed who the Would-Be customers were.
A month later, Democrats held a rally in Fayetteville. Among the attendees were 300 Red Shirts, a paramilitary supremacist group that openly engaged in acts of violence to keep the Democrats in power.
One of their tactics was to show up at the polls wearing red shirts to intimidate black men and white Republicans from voting. One of the speakers openly chastised white men in North Carolina for not burning down Manley's paper and lynching him. Four days later, Waddell followed up with his own speech on white supremacy, stating that race was the most important issue in the upcoming election. His rallying cry was that the white men would never surrender to black authority, even if they had to fill the Cape Fear River with bodies to maintain their freedom.
The rallies became nothing short of brimstone and fire at a fever pitch, calling for white people to stand up against the black community. Within days, late night attacks began as men raided the homes of black people and white sympathizers, ostensibly looking for stashes of weapons. Governor Russell ordered an immediate cease of the raids and attacks instead of a decrease in crimes. The call for peace sense to the Red Shirts and other groups like them, spurring a fresh wave of violence.
Continuing to fan the flames, Simmons spoke before a large crowd telling them that Alexander Manley's letter was instigating black men to rise up and that he had insulted the purity of white women and must be dealt with. The crowd chanted, Lynch him. Simmons assigned twenty five redshirt members to be observers at the polls. Their job was to strong arm all white men to vote Democrat and prevent black men from voting at all. Later, they planned to remove Republican ballots and replace them with votes for the Democrats.
Waddell continued to speak at rallies, shouting that white men should be armed and ready to do their duty in preventing the black vote by force if necessary. Simmons authorized him to select a group of twenty five citizens, two of whom were reverends to assist in getting the word out, called the Committee of 25. They knew that the more people who repeated their rhetoric, the more believable that rhetoric would become. By now, so much of the city had lost sight of the real issues behind the Democrats agenda for tax laws, stockholder shares and shifting railroad regulations, that it was difficult for those with holdings to capitalize on them.
But making race the only issue was the easiest path to victory at the polls. November eight, Election Day started sunny and clear when the polls opened at seven a.m., anxious voters were already waiting. Of the one thousand four hundred and nineteen registered black voters, eight hundred and twenty went to the polls to avoid tensions that might very well build. Throughout the day, people voted early and promptly went home in red shirts. However, walked streets carrying firearms and kerosene as a means to intimidate.
Black men weren't the only ones targeted. The Red Shirts were after black sympathizers statewide, white and black voters having been convinced trouble would surely start at the polls, carried weapons just in case. And Rally Republican Governor Daniel Lindsay Russell received numerous death threats for him, voting day required both preparation and protection. He took the train to Wilmington, telling a waiting reporter that he realized voting might just get him killed. Two men accompanied Russell, one of whom was a commander in the Wilmington Light Infantry, despite the bodyguards, the governor became the target of taunts.
Someone in the jeering crowd asked him what he thought about the anticipated violence from the black community. All right, he replied. His return trip proved to be more perilous. They had been informed that Red Shirts planned to intercept him on one of the train stops, so he took a different route. It didn't work, though, and the group caught up with them just north of Wilmington. He remained jovial and the terrorists let him go. At the next stop, another group of red shirts wasn't as accommodating.
They stormed the train loudly, calling for the governor and threatening to lynch him like the black men he supported. Russell took refuge in the baggage car until the men left.
His trip to the governor's mansion was equally difficult. Extra bodyguards and authorities had to escort him past a mob calling for his execution. Guards stood outside his home until the mob disbanded. Yet despite the propaganda, there had been no shootings, no uprising. People sighed and relief, thinking that now with voting over pensions would die down. Around nine p.m., one hundred and fifty men surrounded the voting precinct, some forced their way inside, shoving the policeman on guard into a water barrel while holding the vote counters at gunpoint.
Men stuffed Democratic ballots into the ballot box to Democratic precinct judges. And a populist Democrat sat and took over, counting the votes as though nothing had happened. The scenario played out in other precincts throughout the city, finally announcing the conservative Democrats had swept the state in every single office that had been up for election.
The newly elected officials immediately began the work of restoring only white men to appointed offices.
The next morning, the Wilmington paper published an article calling for all white men to show up at the courthouse at 11 a.m.. Many citizens, especially those in the black community, realized that the trouble was far from over. In fact, the worst was yet to come. The newspaper reporter had never seen so many people gathered at the courthouse, people jockeyed for a place to stand. Democratic stump speaker Alfred Waddell's stood before the crowd and delivered a lengthy speech.
He warned that the black man was still planning to overtake the city. He argued that the United States Constitution had envisioned a government of enlightened men and it would not stand for the inclusion of an inferior race. They must act now. He said he put forth seven resolutions that would prevent an imminent attack from the black community. White people would no longer be ruled by black people, he said, and only unscrupulous white men would associate with them. He said that the black community was antagonistic and incapable of putting the community's interests first.
Therefore, he continued to rant. The majority of jobs held by black men were to be turned over to white men, but he didn't stop there. He said that the Daily Record was to cease immediately and that the printing press must be shipped out of the city. Alex Manley should also be forever banished from the city for publishing such a vile and slanderous article against their white women slyly. He cited the idea that in any other proper city, Manley would have already been lynched.
The speech had been designed to incite fear and hate, and it worked. The crowd began to call for Manley's death. Appearing to show compassion, Waddell told them that the paper editor had 24 hours to obey. If he dismantled the press and left the city, Waddell said that white men should show some restraint, having convinced the white men that their black neighbors posed a threat to their safety and livelihoods, Waddell presented his proclamation to sign 47 men added their names while crowds gathered outside the courthouse.
One of Manley's white friends arrived at the paper and told him what had just happened since Manly passed for White. His friend supplied him with the money and passwords needed to get past the Red Shirts guarding routes in and out of the city, mainly easily passed the checkpoints. One red shirt even invited him to the lynching had planned that no good. Newspaper owner Waddell and Simmons drew up a list of names of non-white leaders to inform them of the proclamation, including one Native American.
All told, there were seven names. I left off the list had been federal customs collector John D'Arcy and his deputy, Waddell Simmons, and the other organisers knew that including them might bring federal investigation. Armed red shirts were sent to inform the rest of the men on the list that they had until 6:00 p.m. to show up at the courthouse. When they arrived, Wadle read the proclamation, they sat in stunned silence as he informed them that they had until seven 30 the following morning to give him their response in writing.
What he didn't tell them was that he planned on reading that response to a group of armed white supremacists half an hour later. This had been the plan for months, and on the morning of November 10th, the Red Shirts Secret nine and armed white citizens stood in the streets waiting for Waddell's word. When no one arrived at Waddell's home with a letter of concession, he walked down the street to the waiting men. By now, the crowd was 500 strong.
Once in front of the waiting mob, Waddell told them that the black leaders had ignored their request, an intolerable act of defiance. The men cried out for Captain Thomas James, the commander of the Wilmington Light Infantry, to lead them to the daily records office. It was time to stand up against the black community. James wanted no part of the mob and sent a telegraph to his superiors asking for advice, relieved that his orders were to stay put and report back.
Once the mob moved off, he returned to the crowd outside. Unfortunately, some of his men having believed what else lies now, wanted to join the terrorists. To prevent his men from becoming part of the escalating problem, James ordered them to march around the field. Realizing the infantry wouldn't join them, Wadle led his mob to the newspaper. By the time they reached the building, the crowd had grown to a thousand men, James sent the Telegraph to a superior, informing him of the situation.
Soon, Governor Russell heard the news and ordered the infantry to intervene. There was a problem, though. Most of the infantry now sided with the mob. The crowd of angry men vandalized the newspaper, then set it on fire. Afterward, Waddell led them back to the armory, where he suggested they had done their duty for now and to go home knowing some of them would not. While the majority did go home, a few hundred men remained convinced that they needed to search for the weapons they'd been told the black community planned to use against them, stoked on the hatred, lies and mob mentality.
The men marched into the city, targeting businesses that employed mostly black workers. Three black men were shot as they tried to flee in another part of the city. Six more black men were shot and killed. The black community wasn't entirely unarmed and they fired back, fueling the conspiracy that Waddell and Simmons had started. Doctors and nurses rushed to tend to the injured black and white while the gunfire continued around them. A white reporter found an injured black man and followed him as he fled, the man ran into a house with a reporter in pursuit.
Inside, he found three terrified women and one dead man who had been shot several times. The reporter ran for help and the injured man survived. Others weren't as fortunate as the black community fled, the angry mob kept firing when the streets were empty. The mob went from house to house looking for the armed black men and weapons that Simmons and Wadle had warned them about. Reports from that day are horrifying. One minister witnessed the reverend from another church shooting at black residents.
Corpses were scattered in the streets. By mid-afternoon, most of the surviving black community had fled the city, the mob, however, continued to search for the invading black army, chasing shadows that didn't exist. While the massacre continued, Wadle led a group of men to city hall to complete the coup. They burst in holding the mayor, police chief and older at gunpoint. Waddell leveled his gun at the mayor and demanded his resignation. By 4:00 p.m., Wadle had declared himself the new mayor as his first order of business, he appointed a new police chief and new city aldermen and the committee of 25.
When the magazine Publishers Weekly published an article on the massacre, Waddell painted himself as a reluctant and non-violent participant. He stated that he'd merely had been called upon to lead in a time of need, adding that any violence had been accidental and purely in self-defense. In recounting what had happened at the Daily Record, Wadle insisted he hadn't been the one to break down the door nor start the fire that he said had unintentionally been set. Playing the part of a reluctant hero, he claims that the events that followed were indeed the strangest hit ever seen.
But as mayor, he was called upon to end the violence. He went on to say that he and the others broke no laws and had acted appropriately. Given the circumstances, the leaders of the black militia had been captured and then marched them down to the train station the next morning, where he had personally paid for their tickets out of town. Had he not intervened, he said, the others would surely have killed them. After the chaos, he falsely claimed that the remaining black citizens had faith in him and that they were happy that order had been restored.
History and other recorded accounts do not support his claims of black residents starting a riot. The aftermath of these tragic events doesn't offer a storybook ending. When elections rolled around again, Wadle was re-elected and served as Wilmington's mayor until 1985. In fact, all of his allies were re-elected, and unlike in Louisiana, no one from the federal government ever stepped in, including President McKinley, who claimed that he could not act without a call from the governor. Waddell Simmons and their white supremacist groups had successfully pulled off the only player to occur on American soil.
They overturned votes they didn't like and toppled a multiracial government with violence under Waddell's orders, upwards of 60 black citizens were murdered. All in the name of political control. There's more to the story. Stick around after this brief sponsor break to hear all about it. This episode is brought to you by the great courses, plus you may have garnered that I and the rest of the team here love learning. The world is endlessly fascinating and learning about it with purpose from experts who are passionate isn't just fulfilling its self-improvement.
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It may or may not wind up being for you, but it's worth looking into. This podcast is sponsored by Better Health and American Châteaux listeners get 10 percent off their first month at better help dotcom slash American châteaux. That's better HELOC, dotcom, American chateaux. It's rumored that over 600 attempts were made on his life, he once said that if surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal. How many of those attempts were allegedly by the CIA isn't exactly clear, the bane of many world leaders, his reign spanned over eight U.S. presidencies.
Though he was aging, he still had plenty of aspirations and held high hopes for his country. He used to like walking the streets alone, giving him time to think and reflect. Now, he had become a hunted man with over 20 different addresses.
Had overthrown the country's military dictatorship in a coup when he was 33 years old and ruled for 50 more years. In the time of his rule, he'd created schools and reduced illiteracy, hospitals were built, improving health care, the countryside now had electricity and legal discrimination was a thing of the past. The positives didn't outweigh the negatives, though. Newspapers that opposed his views were shut down the amount of land any one person could own was severely limited. Private businesses were banished and he governed all matters of housing and distribution of consumer goods.
When it came to challengers, thousands of his political opponents were jailed. Though he did once himself run in an election, he then declared that any that were not under his control were illegal. In short, he'd become the very thing he'd sought to overthrow. Despite the advances in education and health care, his people lived in poverty and even while living in deplorable conditions, many believed him, nothing short of a messiah. He told his people that he lived frugally, though the opposite was true.
Forbes magazine listed him as one of the richest rulers, which he immediately and angrily declared a lie. He owned yachts and 20 different residences. Among the amenities in his homes were bowling alleys, saunas, basketball courts, seaside pools, a lagoon with dolphins and an abundance of sea turtles. He even had a home where he met up with his countless mistresses. Having successfully converted his country into a one party socialist state, he began backing Marxist governments in 1960, President Eisenhower authorized the CIA to overthrow his government as retaliation.
In 1961, he managed to convince a large group of Americans to protest American imperialism and Eisenhower as well. It wasn't until after an incident involving the explosion of a French vessel, an alignment with Russia and the threat of nuclear war, that he reportedly found himself the target of assassinations. When the CIA bombed three of his airfields, he told his people the news was false. Later, he claimed that the U.S. had purposely engaged in bio warfare against him when an outbreak of dengue fever hit.
It was blame shifting, sure, but perhaps had grown a little fearful. His worst fear was being poisoned. He had his food grown locally and had his own cow to supply all his dairy products. A few of the plots to assassinate him involved a former classmate with a plan to shoot him in broad daylight. A sniper poisoned tea and cooperation between the CIA, the mafia and a former mistress.
The mistress had been given pills laced with poison and she put them into a jar of face cream. She couldn't quite get the cream off the pills and decided that placing pills in his mouth covered in cold cream wouldn't work. So she flushed them down the toilet and confessed. All the attempts failed and he lived to the age of 90. When he did die, no cause of death was given. Though many of his people despised him, others adored him and mourned his passing.
Biographers said the ruler was hardworking and had a sense of humor, but added that he was a bad loser, threw temper tantrums and was vindictive. Though he's gone, the United States still has an embargo against the country, he ruled, and that man. Fidel Castro. American Chateaux is hosted by Lauren Vogel Bomb. This episode was written by Michelle Muto with researcher Robin Miniter and produced by Miranda Hawkins and Trevor Young with executive producers Aaron Manque, Alex Williams and Matt Frederick.
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