Analysis and response to H. Leon Prather's article "We Have Taken a City"
Leon Prather’s article “We have taken a city” is an essay about a race riot, which took place in Wilmington, North Carolina. This started when the Republicans, who were then not conservatives, merged with some white workers and farmers to ensure they had voted out the politicians who were conservatives, who are the Democrats. They intended to elect candidates who represented the entire African-American race. The Republicans mainly comprised of the African-American race. This move was a serious threat to the status quo that seemed to exist at that time and created a lot of fear among the conservatives. Therefore, the conservatives started the racial segregation came in order to bring divisions among the alliances that had been formed. They intended to bring those poor whites out of the alliances back to the camp of the Democratic Party, which was mainly controlled by the conservatives. That means that they would end up in the control of the conservatives (Prather and Davis 17).
Following all these incidences, Wilmington, one of the largest cities in North Carolina then with many blacks than the whites encountered severe racial violence. This resulted into the breaking of the African-American community leaving it in shambles with nothing to rely. Many people died in the course of the violence since the conservative were using force to eliminate the African-American leaders. They went to an extend engaging in a coup, where those leaders who had been officially elected were removed from office (Prather 19). Later on, conservatives replaced them with their own people whom they considered capable enough to take up the leadership roles.
The atrocities that were happening in the Wilmington city then can be best illustrated by one example of Alex Manly, who was an editor of the local newspaper of the city. Manly was mixed race and his dad was a governor of the sate just before the civil war begun. The city was mainly resided upon by the African-Americans from the middle class. Alex Manly responded to some accusations that were made against the blacks by Rebecca Felton from Georgia. She claimed that the white women were suffering sexual harassment from the black men. Alex opposed this statement an instead categorically stated that the black women were the ones who suffered from such violence. He gave an example of his own mother who was a slave to the former governor of the state (Prather and Davis 23).
This opened criticism and opposition, which circulated in the city in the local newspaper resulting in the torching of Manly’s Newspaper Press Building by a group of whites. This was a clear indication that the conservatives, being who they were could never stand such criticism. In the event of these attacks, one white man was shot down. This gave a leeway to the armed white men to attack the blacks leaving many of them dead. In addition to the high death rates, many of the leaders then from the African-American community had no choice but to run to exile. By the time the war was ending, the capable African-Americans had all gone into exile, something that entrenched the establishment of the conservatives. The irony of the war was in the fact that the conservatives used the whites from the lower class to do these unthinkable atrocities. This was ironical because these whites were hardly different from the African-Americans who were being tortured (Prather and Davis 27).
All the events unfolded in this manner due to the supremacy that the whites seemed to exercise. They considered themselves superior and sophisticated and could not stand any form of humiliation from the African-American community. The African-Americans were considered weak, uneducated and inferior in virtually all aspects of life. Consequently, they could not defend themselves or fight for their rights. Therefore, they succumbed to the white rule although they were profoundly outnumbered the white people in the entire city. There existed what can be referred to as the minority rule where the whites ruled (Prather and Davis 30).
Some of the social issues that resulted to the war, as partly evident above, were the facts that the African-Americans seemed to be educated and empowered and were now fast becoming socially stable just as the whites. Among the economic issues was the stability that the Blacks were gaining from economic freedom. The Africans were now having lucrative jobs that seemed to empower them, and this considerably threatened the whites. Lastly, the African-Americans had been politically empowered and gained control in the city. In fact, this appears to be the main cause of the war because the African-Americans were strategizing on how they could elect leaders representing race. This followed the total misrepresentation that they seemed to get from the white leaders that had been elected. They put the interests of the white people first, together with their own leaving out the blacks. This was the actual oppression, which necessitated the need for African-American to empowered themselves politically (Prather and Davis 32).
The government responded to the African-American community move by direct confrontation due to the lack of a voice of this race in the government. The government had a majority of the whites in rule who all considered the interests of the white people only and not the blacks. Consequently, no one in the government considered the move that was being taken to counter the African-American move to have representation in the government, as inhuman and selfish. It is clear that the government only represented the voice of the white people and not all the people of America as a whole (Prather and Davis 33).
Leon, Prather and Davis, Kenneth. We Have Taken a City: The Wilmington Racial Massacre and
Coup of 1898. Dram Tree Books, 2006. Print