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The dangers of revolutionary right-wing rhetoric

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And they did just that. On Nov. 9, some Wilmington whites issued a White Declaration of Independence, proclaiming "that we will no longer be ruled ... by men of African origin."

The next day, a vigilante group of armed supremacists forcibly removed the Republican city leaders (both black and white) from office, and took control, burning buildings and shooting blacks. The official death toll was fewer than 20, though African-American oral tradition claims the Cape Fear River was choked with hundreds of bodies. There is no question that thousands of frightened blacks fled.

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.

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