Neither President McKinley nor the governor of North Carolina (both Republicans) acted to stop or reverse what amounted to a coup and race riot. Soon thereafter, Jim Crow laws undermined basic rights for blacks for the next half century.
One gets a sense of déjà vu listening to today's right-wingers talk. In March, Fox News host Glenn Beck said: "If this country starts to spiral out of control ... there will be parts of the country that will rise up."
That's what happened in Wilmington in 1898. Those who lost power in elections launched a coup marked by terror. Such a revolutionary impulse resonates again.
This spring, covering an antitax "tea party" protest in Boston, Fox News Business anchor Cody Willard raged, "Guys, when are we going to wake up and start fighting the fascism that seems to be permeating this country?"
The Rev. William J. Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, recalls similar sentiment on Southern billboards during the civil-rights era, "painting Martin Luther King as a communist, a socialist, and anti-American."
As in 1898, a prominent black American's patriotism and legitimacy are questioned. Today, the radical, reactionary right asks whether Obama is really an American citizen. Mr. Barber warns of what he calls "a rebirth of dangerous rhetoric," reminding us that "all forms of violence are preceded by violent language."