Nothing becomes official until the NC Highway Historical Marker Advisory Committee meets on May 22 to formally review, and, ultimately, if it sees fit, approves it, but, as of now, the proposed 1898 historical marker planned for Market Street between Fourth and Fifth streets later this year, has new language.

And that new language eliminates the previous guesswork of exactly how many African-Americans were killed on Nov. 10, 1898 – the day the Wilmington race massacre began.

Titled “WILMINGTON COUP,” the new proposed language for the approved historical marker reads:

Armed White mob met, Nov. 10, 1898, at armory here, marched 6 blocks and burned office of Daily Record, Black-owned newspaper. Violence left untold numbers of African Americans dead. Led to overthrow of city government & installation of coup leader as mayor. Was part of a statewide political campaign based on calls for White supremacy and the exploitation of racial tensions.

            The initial language of the marker that caused considerable controversy inaccurately stated that “Violence left up to 60 Blacks dead…,” but research by the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission in 2006 determined that the true number of Blacks killed during the massacre on that first day, let alone ultimately during the entire racial siege of Wilmington by White supremacists, was “unknown,” and may never be known.

The new draft language also leaves off the name of Alex Manley, the publisher of the Daily Record (primarily because there already is a marker with his name at the spot on Seventh Street where the Daily Record was burned down). The new proposed marker language also deletes the name of Alfred Moore Waddell, the coup leader who was ultimately installed as mayor after the violent takeover.

The term “race riot” is also removed from the previous language.

In a recent exclusive interview with The Wilmington Journal, Michael Hill, Research Supervisor at the NC Office of Archives and History, a division of the NC Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources, confirmed that staff at the NC Highway Historical Program determined that some the proposed language of the planned 1898 marker needed to be changed before it is unveiled.

“We wish to seek input from the local community. We’ve received several emails, including from the local NAACP, and probably about a half dozen others,” Mr. Hill told The Journal.

Ansley Wegner, the administrator of the NC Highway Historical Marker Program, developed several new drafts, based of community input.

“The next stage will be to share the new drafts with all interested local parties,” Hill continued, including Rend Smith, of the nonprofit group, Working Narratives, which made the original application for the 1898 marker, and Deborah Dicks Maxwell, President of the NHCNAACP.

The New Hanover African-American Heritage Commission will also be included.

Smith, as the applicant, will then have the right of first appeal to the marker advisory committee when they meet on May 22.

Editor’s note – Those wishing to write the NC Highway Historical Marker Program to express your thoughts about the proposed inscription on the 1898 race massacre marker, should address your correspondence to: 4610 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4610 to the attention of Ansley Wegner, Administrator, or email Ms. Wegner at ansley.wegner@ncdcr.gov.