Class on Race Relations to Start in Wilmington, N.C.

WILMINGTON, N.C.

New Hanover County’s district attorney will follow through on his promise to address race relations when a class on Wilmington’s history gets under way this fall.

“The History of Wilmington in Black and White” will be taught Thursday evenings from Sept. 18 to Oct. 23 at Williston Middle School, the Star-News of Wilmington reported. The class will cost $75.

District Attorney Ben David promised to address race relations after 23-year-old Phillipe McIver was killed in April 2007 after he shot at police. Tensions mounted in the Black community after the shooting, which the State Bureau of Investigation ruled was justified.

But instead of addressing race relations when tensions were high, David said he wanted to tackle the issue when time had passed.

People only have to look at the past to understand the community’s anger now, he said.

“This is not a Black issue or a White issue or a Hispanic issue, for that matter,” he said. “It’s a human issue.”

In 2007, the state Senate expressed “profound regret” for the violence that occurred on Nov. 10, 1898, in Wilmington, which was then North Carolina’s largest city.

A state commission that spent six years researching the attack concluded that, by murdering and terrorizing Blacks, White supremacists were able to overthrow government officials in New Hanover County at gunpoint in the only recorded violent government overthrow in U.S. history. They later passed laws that disfranchised Blacks until the civil rights movement in the mid-20th century.

Tim Tyson, author of the book Blood Done Sign My Name, will teach the class, along with gospel singer Mary D. Williams, who will discuss Black religious and cultural traditions. Tyson’s book is about the killing of a Black man in 1970 in Oxford and the trial and acquittals of two White men charged in his death. Tyson, who was 10 years old and living in Oxford at the time, also lived in Wilmington.

“We need to come together to talk before we have a major catastrophe,” said the Rev. Robert Campbell, pastor of New Beginning Christian Church. “Let’s not wait for the next riot. Let’s not wait for the next big issue.”

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