Wilmington, North Carolina, 1898.
It is election season in the Port City. Throughout the summer, and well into the fall, leaders of Wilmington’s Democratic party soaked their campaign speeches in the language of white supremacy and patriotism. The Democrats had lost everything in 1894. Their attacks on economic reform and farmers’ rights made them unpopular and allowed Republicans and Populists to sweep the state in 1894, creating a successful Fusion alliance. The Fusion movement extended full political participation to black North Carolinians and honored the black vote with opportunities for political office . Black office holders, in turn, supported the economic growth of black communities through civil service appointments and…show more content… Each of the five ward would elect a member through municipal, and the governor would have the priviledge of appointing five members. The first Board of Aldermen elected in 1897 featured 6 Republicans, 3 Democrats, and a Silverite. The controversy that followed the Board of Alderman elections became the first stage of the Democrat’s political coup that would eventfully manifest in a complete overthrow of Wilmington’s legally elected government in November 1898. The 3 Democrats elected to the Board of Alderman never appeared to be sworn into office. They instead met with Democrats who had been ousted by Russell’s political re-organization of the municipal government. These former office holders declared the most recent election unconstitutional, and refused to vacate their seats. To confuse matters further, the former office holders and the newly elected Democrats who refused to serve of the current Board of Alderman formed another, separate, Board of Alderman. Therefore, in March 1897, Wilmington had three different governments, each claiming to be sovereign: Democratic officers elected in the previous election who refused to vacate, the Democratic-run Board of Alderman, and the Board of Alderman elected under Governor Russell’s new rules. The Democrats hoped that taking the matter before the Superior Court would settle the matter, and found cause to celebrate when the Superior Court voided the 1897 municipal election as unconstitutional. The newly