Events planned to commemorate the 123rd anniversary of the 1898 Massacre

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington are joining several local organizations and partners to commemorate the 123rd anniversary of the 1898 Wilmington Massacre and Coup d’état.

From November 1-10, events will take place around the county to educate the community and honor the memory of those who were killed.

To start the commemoration, on November 1, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners will sign a proclamation announcing the month of November as 1898 Commemoration Month.

County Commission Chairman Julia Olson-Boseman reflected on the establishment of the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission in 2000 by the General Assembly. When she became a senator in 2005, she was appointed co-chair of the commission, saying her time serving on the commission was very eye-opening because she had not learned about the massacre until she became a senator.

“I grew up in Wilmington. I was never taught anything about it in school, never taught what the black community endured during that time and the many years that followed. It was swept under the rug for decades and that is a shame because that real and tragic history shaped our community and the pain lingers to this day,” Olson-Boseman said. “It’s important to know our community’s distinct past so we can heal forward together.”

Additional events will take place over the next week and a half, including a ceremony at 2 p.m. on November 6 at the 1898 Memorial Park held by the New Hanover County Community Remembrance Project to display soil samples from locations where Black residents were slaughtered by a white mob. The ceremony will recognize the known and unknown victims, survivors, and descendants from both groups.

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo called the coup the “worst moment in Wilmington’s history.” Despite the city’s history, Saffo said one day Wilmington will be known as a bastion of equity, hope, and light for all people. He encouraged everyone to reflect on the past, but to not overlook the significance of coming together in the present.

“Here we stand in solidarity with our neighbors who look different than us, who worship differently than us, who think, speak, and experience life differently than us. We do so in the very spot where a century ago people were killed for these very same differences.”

Following the ceremony on November 6, a funeral procession and graveside memorial service will be held in memory of the late Joshua Halsey who was killed during the massacre and coup d’état. Halsey’s gravesite is the first to be located of the 1898 victims, which is a notable discovery made by the Third Person Project.

Beginning at 3:15 p.m., a horse-drawn carriage with the soil samples identifying Halsey will begin a procession from the corner of 6th and Bladen streets down Red Cross Street to Pine Forest Cemetery. Descendants of Halsey will be in attendance, along with state and local leaders, and a graveside eulogy will be given by Rev. Dr. William Barber, II. The community is encouraged to line the streets for the funeral procession.

“Remembering our past is key in order to heal and acknowledge our bright future together,” said community organizer Bertha Todd. “The events planned for this commemoration should be marked on everyone’s calendar and each child in our community should be able to witness this amazing history unfold. This is a bright start in the right direction and I am grateful to witness these efforts and be a part of it all.”

In addition, at noon on November 10, the City of Wilmington will install a state marker at the corner of 3rd and Red Cross streets in memory of the late Reverend Dr. J. Allen Kirk, a well-known pastor and community leader who was targeted during the 1898 Riots at that location.

That same day, at 6:30 p.m., an 1898 Commemoration Unity Service will be held at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church featuring Dr. Ben Chavis, a member of the historic Wilmington Ten, as keynote speaker.

For a full calendar of the events, virtual links, and streaming information visit the 1898 Commemoration page on the county’s website or call the county’s Office of Diversity & Equity at 910-798-7430.

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