Echoes of a Coup

Echoes of a Coup

From John Biewen and Scene on Radio – Echoes of a Coup

A new one-hour special for Black History MonthAVAILABLE NOW

Echoes of a Coup tells the story of the only successful coup d’etat in U.S. history — the 1898 racially motivated massacre and coup in Wilmington, North Carolina.


In November, 1898, an armed White supremacist mob – supported by most White elites in North Carolina – murdered untold Black Wilmington residents and drove the city’s elected Fusionist government from power, installing Democrats in their place. (Fusionists were a biracial coalition of mostly-Black Republicans and mostly-White members of the Populist Party.) The coup in North Carolina’s then-largest city violently snuffed out some of the last flickers of multiracial democracy in post-Civil War America.

The attack was explicitly White supremacist; politicians and establishment journalists had called for the overthrow of what they called “negro rule.” Wilmington’s Black community would never be the same. In addition to the Black Wilmingtonians who were murdered (estimates range from about twenty to several hundred), thousands, including many of the most prominent and successful Black leaders and business people, fled the city, never to return. In 1898, Black people made up 50% of Wilmington’s population; today, the city is 17% Black, below the state average.

Echoes of a Coup puts these events in historical context, at a time when the United States is once again facing threats of political violence, amid orchestrated attacks on democracy – from within.

FREE one-hour special

AVAILABLE NOW on PRX, AudioPort, & Download