If NC Republican Party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse set out to deliberately stir up a hornet’s nest of controversy and criticism with his latest racial remarks, he’s succeeded. With no less than the Chairman of the NC Democratic Party calling Woodhouse “unhinged,” Democrats and activists literally lined up Monday to blast the unabashedly partisan Woodhouse for stating in a series of tweets Sunday that Democrats “murdered Blacks” in the Port City of Wilmington during the Nov. 10, 1898 Wilmington Race Massacre, when White supremacists attacked and killed Black people, sowing the seeds of the racist Jim Crow era that would last at least a century after. Woodhouse reliably trolls the Democratic Party every chance he gets, but this time, critics say that he’s gone too far.
It all started when the NC Democratic Party sent out a tweet Sunday acknowledging August 6, 2017 as the 52nd anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the landmark federal legislation that outlawed racial discrimination in voting.
“On this anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, let’s celebrate how far we’ve come but remember that we must fight to keep moving forward,” stated the NCDP tweet. Accompanying the message was a picture of Former President Barack Obama with his family, marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge two years ago to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
The NCDP tweet included the famous quote from former civil rights activist, John Lewis, now a US congressman from Georgia. “If you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something about it.”
Then Woodhouse, for whatever reason, decided to respond to the NCDP tweet with, “From the party that ran a racist campaign of murder and closed the polls to Blacks who were Republicans, gaining power for 100 years.”
In subsequent tweets, the NCGOP executive director continued, “After they murdered Blacks in Wilmington [the NC Democratic Party] passed what they call the White Declaration of Independence. The Wilmington Riot of 1898 was not an act of spontaneous violence. The events of Nov. 10, 1898 were a result of the long range campaign strategy by Democratic Party leaders to regain political control of Wilmington – at that time [the] North Carolina’s most populous city – and North Carolina in the name of White supremacy.”
For the most part, the facts that Woodhouse stated are not wrong, though he admitted in a subsequent interview that he actually got them from Wikipedia. However, Democrats and others blasted Woodhouse for essential information he apparently left out to leave the impression that the Democratic Party is still ruled by White supremacists and that Republicans are a much better political fit for African-Americans today.
Indeed, until the 1960’s, Blacks were primarily members of the Republican Party because, historically, it was the party of President Abraham Lincoln, known for freeing the slaves. Blacks shifted to Democrats with the election of President John F. Kennedy.
“Woodhouse’s statement failed to mention that the North Carolina General Assembly and the N. C. Democratic Party did issue formal apologies (in 2007) for the massacre and the resulting official oppression which was imposed upon African Americans in North Carolina from 1898 until 1970,” says NCNAACP Legal Redress Committee Chairman Irving Joyner, who also served as a Co-chairman of the 1898 Wilmington Race Riots Commission, which researched the incident, and issued a report in 2007.
“Those apologies did not rectify nor compensate for the many deaths and destruction which African Americans experienced, but they did acknowledge that a terrible wrong did occur to our people and to every North Carolina citizen,” Joyner added.
Woodhouse apparently also forgot that it was a Republican, then State House Rep. Thom Tillis, now a US Senator, who actively opposed the official apology from the Democrat-led NC General Assembly, telling his constituents in a letter, “It’s time to move on.”
Rep. Deb Butler, a District 18 Democrat, representing Brunswick/New Hanover counties, was blunt about the thinly veiled NCGOP rhetorical attempt.
“The suggestion that the North Carolina Democratic Party is harmful to African Americans is perfectly ludicrous,” she said. “One needs to look no further than the current composition of the North Carolina House of Representatives to see that not ONE person of color serves from the NCGOP.”
Rep. Butler continued, “Democrats in NC today embrace diversity in every way. That side of the aisle mirrors Trump’s cabinet, and it is entirely homogeneous. That’s their loss and shame on [Woodhouse] for his laughable assertion otherwise.”
After saying in a statement, “This is unhinged even for the NCGOP, a party that is desperate to hide three words: illegal racial gerrymander,” NC Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodman continued, “Republicans …are targeting African-American voters with ‘surgical precision’ [with voter suppression], and would rather attack Democrats than work to protect voting rights for the Black community.”
State Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth) agreed.
“Since the 1960’s, the Democratic Party has been more sensitive to the issues and concerns of people of color, women and the poor. At this time, the Republican Party doesn’t seem to be offering a moderate or progressive agenda that will serve all the people of this State.”
However, Rep. Ed Hanes, Jr. (D-District 72) feels that neither Republicans nor Democrats have been completely just in their treatment of African-Americans. “It’s difficult to howl about the ills of the Republican Party, however, when racism and social division persist within the Democratic Party. Is it better? Yes, without doubt,” Hanes said, but later adding, “We’re a party divided very similarly to how our nation is divided.”
“The Republicans know and exploit it!,” Rep. Hanes concluded.
And NCNAACP Legal Redress Chair Irv Joyner summed up reaction to Woodhouse’s controversial tweet with, “While I am cognizant that Woodhouse is aware of the past sordid history of the Democratic Party, I bemoan his failure to recognize and acknowledge the racial harm that the present day Republican leadership is attempting to inflict upon African Americans and racial minorities today.”
For his part, NCGOP Executive Director Woodhouse told a local Raleigh television station Monday that he was “tired of being lectured to by people with a murderous, violent history.”
Several Republican lawmakers were contacted for comment for this story. Only one responded, Rep. Donny Lambeth, and that was only to say that he was away on vacation with his family this week.