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Joshua Halsey Gets Funeral 123 Years After He Was Murdered In 1898 Massacre Of Black People In Wilmington

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Joshua Halsey Gets Funeral 123 Years After He Was Murdered In 1898 Massacre Of Black People In Wilmington

After being killed by a violent group of white supremacists during the city’s massacre in November 1898, Joshua Halsey was buried in an unmarked grave at Pine Forest Cemetery in Wilmington, North Carolina. Halsey, who was 40 years old at the time, was one of an unknown number of Black persons murdered in Wilmington on November 10, 1898, as part of a plot hatched by white supremacists and police officers. At the time, the city’s governance was multiracial.

During the commotion, Halsey and many other Black people sought refuge in wetlands near the Pine Forest Cemetery on the outskirts of town, which became recognized as the United States’ only successful coup d’etat.

After handwritten maps of the cemetery were digitized in October, a nonprofit called the Third Person Project discovered Halsey’s burial. The burial of Halsey was the first of the massacre victims to be recognized. According to CNN, there could be as many as 250 other Black victims, according to John Jeremiah Sullivan of the Third Person Project, who said that the total number of Blacks killed may never be known because their bodies were thrown in a river or interred privately at unknown locations.

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When Halsey’s grave was discovered, his descendants were surprised, and he was honored with a funeral over the weekend. The funeral was part of a series of remembrance ceremonies marking the 123rd anniversary of the massacre. It was attended by not only Halsey’s relatives, but also local political figures, activists, and individuals who supported the cause of the massacre investigation, according to Star News Online.

According to CNN, a horse-drawn hearse transported earth taken from the location of Halsey’s home to the funeral on Saturday. Halsey’s eulogy was delivered by the Rev. William Barber II, a co-founder of the Poor People’s Campaign, a Martin Luther King Jr.-inspired organization.

“We have to discover the remnants of systematic racism that are still happening and going on now,” Barber added. “And in Joshua’s name, we must call them out.” What murdered Joshua is still alive today, and I’m here to tell you about it.”

“A charismatic, racist orator who toured all over the state and country preaching people against ‘Negro dominance’ and the perils of white and black people working together,” Barber said of Halsey’s assassination.

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The Massacre In Wilmington

Before the massacre, Wilmington had a vibrant Black community with police officers, magistrates, firefighters, skilled artisans, industrial workers, and marine crew members. Three of the 10 aldermen were African Americans, indicating that black people were a part of the city’s government.

In the 1898 state legislative elections, Democrats, the Confederacy’s party, promised to end “Negro domination” in the elections. The Democrats’ strategy, according to the Zinn Education Project, was to “enlist men who could write (white journalists and cartoonists), men who could speak (white supremacists who whipped up emotions at rallies), and men who could ride (the Ku Klux Klan-like “Red Shirts,” who were basically armed ruffians on horseback).”

White nationalists also used an editorial by Alex Manly, editor of Wilmington’s Black newspaper, the Daily Record, to promote violence during the election season. In his column, Manly decried lynching and highlighted the forbidden topic of interracial sex, demonstrating how Black women were sexually exploited.

Former Confederate colonel Alfred Waddell and white supremacists assured that the editorial was met with white indignation. Waddell also gave a speech just before the election in which he suggested that white folks “choke the Cape Fear (River) with carcasses” if necessary to keep African Americans from voting.

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Democrats won every seat on election day. These were, nevertheless, seats in the state legislature. In Wilmington’s city administration, African Americans still held sway. “We, the undersigned people… do hereby declare that we shall no longer be dominated, and will never again be ruled by persons of African ancestry,” read the “White Declaration of Independence” signed by about 800 white citizens headed by Waddell at the county courthouse.

Waddell led a group of 500 white men to the Daily Record’s headquarters the next day, November 10, 1898, and set fire to the building. In the aftermath of the riots, Manly and other notable African Americans fled the city. White supremacists with firearms paraded through Black areas, killing some Black individuals.

According to the Zinn Education Project report, Waddell threw out the democratically elected aldermen and placed his own in the midst of the rioting. Waddell was “elected” mayor by the individuals he brought into power. According to the Zinn Education Project report, Black leaders were imprisoned “for their own safety,” and the military marched them against their will to the train station, where they were taken out of town.

North Carolina passed the “grandfather clause” two years after the insurgency to limit African Americans’ voting rights. According to a guide to the events published by the William Madison Randall Library and cited by CNN, “the events of the 1898 coup marked a turning point in the post-Reconstruction South that changed the trajectory of race relations in North Carolina and marked the start of Jim Crow laws in the state, which further enforced racial segregation through the mid-twentieth century.”

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Halsey’s great-granddaughter, Gwendolyn Alexis, told CNN that learning that her great-grandmother was killed in the insurgency stole her breath away.

“Not only did I uncover family, but I also found history,” she explained.

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