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1881 Massachusetts gubernatorial election

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1881 Massachusetts gubernatorial election

← 1880 November 8, 1881 (1881-11-08) 1882 →
Nominee John Davis Long Charles Perkins Thompson
Party Republican Democratic
Running mate Byron Weston James H. Carleton
Popular vote 96,609 54,586
Percentage 61.22% 34.59%

Governor before election

John Davis Long

Elected Governor

John Davis Long

Gubernatorial elections were held in Massachusetts on November 8, 1881.

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For a long time, if you went to the library in Wilmington, North Carolina, there was one thing you weren’t allowed to research. “We were refused. We were rejected by the librarian.” “When I asked about or inquired about 1898 they wanted to know why.” “I was told that yes they had something but they kept it under lock and key." The story of Wilmington in 1898 still isn't widely known. “What happened here — on what’s now just this empty patch of grass would radically change racial politics in North Carolina. This is the story of an American election, but also of something we don't usually find in American history. The violent overthrow of a democratically elected government. In the late 1800s, Wilmington, North Carolina was the state’s largest city. It had a majority black population, and historians today describe it as a rarity in the post-Civil War American South. “Wilmington prior to November, 1898, was what the New South could be at the cusp of the 20th century.” “There was an unusual degree of black prosperity.” In Wilmington there were successful black entrepreneurs, doctors, teachers -- but also black elected officials. And for a time, that was true throughout the State. Take a look at the politicians on this poster of the 1889 North Carolina House of Representatives. Here at the bottom — are black Republican representatives — some from Wilmington. North Carolina also sent four black Republicans to the US Congress between 1875 and 1899. The Democratic and Republican parties of 1898 in many ways occupied opposite parts of the political spectrum than they do today. “Most African-Americans were voting for the Republican Party. And the Democratic Party was white voters almost exclusively. White supremacy was the central focus of the platform for the Democratic Party.” Republicans in North Carolina were successful in part because of a 3rd party called the "Populist" party, made up of mostly white farmers fed up with the tough economic times. North Carolina Populists joined up with Republicans to form what they called the Fusion Party. And in the elections of 1894 and 1896, the Fusion party defeated the Democrats in sweeping victories statewide. That meant North Carolina now had a government that shared power between black and white politicians, including a newly elected Republican governor. Together, they moved towards reforms that would favor black Americans and working-class whites. “This was something that the Democratic Party folks were simply not going to accept.” A multiracial government wasn’t just a disappointment for Democrats. It was more like a humiliation. They needed a plan to take back control of the state in the next election. So party leaders, like Furnifold Simmons, future US Senator; Charles Aycock, future North Carolina Governor; and this man, Alfred Moore Wadell, came up with one: To beat the Fusion Party by luring white Populist voters away from their alliance with Black voters. Wilmington, with a large black population and a local Fusion government in power — would be a focus of their campaign. The state Democratic state party handbook for 1898 laid out their goal: consolidate the white vote by stoking white anger and resentment. It said: “this is a white man’s country and white men must control and govern it.” Their most effective tool was the media. One of North Carolina’s biggest newspapers was a Democratic Party mouthpiece. It ran racist political cartoons throughout 1898. “Not everybody was literate in 1898. But to see a political cartoon of the type that  ran you may not be able to read it but you know exactly what it means.” Many of the cartoons were centered on the threat of “Negro domination”...even though the Fusion government was mostly white. They also played up another fear. “Black men threatening white women became a theme. White men need to do all that they can to protect white womanhood.” This was all part of North Carolina democratic strategy, but it echoed the national racist rhetoric of the time. In one speech that Democrats printed in a Wilmington paper — a prominent Georgia writer named Rebecca Felton said: “If it takes lynching a black man a day to protect white womanhood ‘I say lynch". Her speech prompted a Wilmington black man named Alex Manly, owner of the black-run, Daily Record newspaper, to respond with a column. He made a simple observation, that at the time, was shocking. “That white women who had liaisons with black men did so voluntarily and enthusiastically.” Manly wrote “Every Negro lynched is called a "big burly, black brute", when in fact many were sufficiently attractive for white girls to fall in love with them.” “Manly pretty much said in a nutshell: sometimes white women choose to be with black men.” Manly’s editorial became another tool for Democrats. Newspapers reprinted it, called it “A Horrid Slander”, and ran comments about it on a daily basis. It was just a few months before the election, and white voters were angry. “By the time the election rolls around on November 8th black voters, Republican voters had been thoroughly intimidated here.” By all accounts, the elections of 1898 were a sham. The Democratic party had a paramilitary group called the Red Shirts. They attacked and blocked black residents from voting. At a rally just before the election, Alfred Moore Waddell provoked the crowds. He said “negro office-holding ought at once, and forever be brought to an end. Even if we have to choke the current of the Cape Fear River with carcasses.” The votes were counted, and the Democrats won. “Democratic candidates won every seat they had a candidate up for election in.” But some local Fusionist politicians remained in power, because their seats hadn’t been up for re-election like the white Republican mayor and the board of aldermen. And and of course the election did nothing to undo the economic power black folks held in the city. The Democrats had won the election, but their goal of total white supremacist control remained out of reach. “And so they engineered what was essentially a coup d'etat.” The day after the election, at a gathering for white men in Wilmington, the Democrats unveiled a document they called the “White Declaration of Independence.” It contained an ultimatum. Cynthia Brown, whose descendants were in Wilmington back in 1898, is a historian at her church, where there’s a preserved copy of the declaration from the next day’s newspaper. “We will no longer be ruled and will never again be ruled by men of African origin.” They would strip black men of voting rights. They would give “white men a large part of the employment heretofore given to” black men. And as for Alex Manly... “We demand that he leave this City forever within twenty-four hours.” The next morning, hundreds of white men marched to the offices of the Daily Record. Manly was gone -- he had fled to save his own life. They set the Daily Record building on fire. This is where it once stood. “Once the White leadership destroyed Alex Manly's printing press they destroyed one way in which the African-American community in Wilmington could organize itself and keep itself informed.” At City Hall — the mayor and board of aldermen were forced out. “There's two hundred armed men in City Hall at the time. They didn't do it of their own free will and as they resigned a new member selected by the Democratic Party was voted into office.” Waddell — who once threatened to fill the Cape Fear River with black bodies — was the new mayor of Wilmington. Meanwhile, the mob had grown to about 2,000 men, and the violence spilled into the streets. In these photos, exes mark where the first black residents were killed. “The stories are that they were dumped into the river. And there are varying stories about how many people were killed.” “To me, I see 40 to 60 clearly as fatalities as a result of the violence. But I think it was higher.” Many black residents hid for days in the swamps, and the wooded cemeteries in the city — including Cynthia’s great grandmother. And thousands of other residents fled Wilmington, never to return. Shortly afterward, democrats printed booklets celebrating a glorious victory...and in the newspapers, depicted black residents as the instigators. “This image is a gross misrepresentation of what actually happened. You know what you see are black men with guns not white men with machine guns.” The city never regained its black majority population. Jim Crow laws, like literacy tests and poll taxes that prevented black people from voting were immediately enacted and Wilmington’s spirit of black opportunity was crushed. Black political representation in the state was over. It would be 90 years until North Carolina elected its next black Congress member. “Wilmington did a really great job of covering up a very dark past for a very long time.” “Over the years, the textbooks on North Carolina’s state history have struggled to accurately describe what happened in 1898. This book from 1933 calls what happened “unfortunate for both races.” And this one from 1978 doesn’t have that much more detail. But they both praise Charles Aycock, one of the perpetrators of the riot, as a man with ‘a kind heart’ and that in fact he was one of ‘the best friends that the colored people had in the state.' It’s a legacy that North Carolina has yet to fully undo. The names of the perpetrators are on Wilmington's school buildings and city parks. But the legacy is also bigger than those names. Turn on the news, and the state's long history of political suppression echoes. “We turn to a strict new voter ID law in North Carolina.” “Racially gerrymandering and a push for new voting maps.” “The court says the Republican-led legislature redrew Congressional districts along racial lines, violating the Constitution.” “There is a tremendous amount of intimidation that is still felt by the black community.” “It doesn't have to be mass mayhem and violence in the streets.” “The strategy shifts towards designing state laws in such a way that you could exclude blacks from voter participation.” “The subliminal pursuit of continuing the White declaration of independence.” “And if you don't see it for what it really is, it can happen all over again.”


Massachusetts gubernatorial election, 1881[1][2]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican John Davis Long 96,609 61.22%
Democratic Charles Perkins Thompson 54,586 34.59%
Greenback Israel W. Andrews 4,889 3.10%
Prohibition Charles Almy 1,640 1.04%
Others Others 78 0.05%
Republican hold Swing

Lt. Governor

Massachusetts Lt. gubernatorial election, 1881[2]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Byron Weston 96,850 61.40%
Democratic James H. Carleton[3] 54,329 34.44%
Greenback George Dutton[4] 4,932 3.13%
Prohibition John Blackmer[5] 1,596 1.01%
Others Others 30 0.02%
Republican hold Swing


  1. ^ "MA Governor, 1881". OurCampaigns. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  2. ^ a b Manual for the Use of the General Court, 1882. Boston, MA: Rand, Avery, & Co., Printers to the Commonwealth. 1882.
  3. ^ "Newspaper Clipping". Marion Banner. Marion, Kansas. 13 October 1881. p. 1. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  4. ^ "Fitchburg Sentinel from Fitchburg, Massachusetts on September 23, 1880 · Page 1".
  5. ^ "Past Prohibition Party Candidates...MA Vote Records".
This page was last edited on 9 February 2020, at 05:50
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