for the second edition of the walderblog film review series(first one was entourage movie check it out on my blog) i watched Wilmington on Fire(available to rent on Vimeo for $7.99) which is a documentary about the only actual real deal succesful coup d’etat in American history. I recommend that you watch this film. The coup happened in 1898 and it happened because Americans are very racist people and the historical proximity to The Civil War meant that violent racists were as well organized and trained as at any time in american history except for all periods preceding and including the Civil War. The story of the coup itself is pretty wild and complex and it has a kind of bizarre mix of shady, complicated, bureaucratic maneuvering and just straight up slaughtering people in the street. The combination of political posturing and pure brutality is a formula that we see today in the ways that white supremacy enforces and maintains itself in America IMO. I’ve had a few beers.
I’m not going to retell the whole story of the coup, for that I’d suggest you watch “Wilmington On Fire”
BUT the events covered in this film illustrate a pretty typical arc in post-reconstruction America. All over the south, gains made by black Americans after the Confederacy got what was coming to it were clawed back in part or in whole by terrorists. Violent reactionaries with all the courage, conviction and hatred for the American government of todays jihadists formed groups like the KKK or the white government union or the Redshirts(hard to get more classically fascist than a group called *the redshirts* formed specifically to undermine democracy) and violently terrorized black people and any whites they determined to be race traitors. It’s a reality of American history that not a lot of people talk about and one that I wasn’t really familiar with until very recently so i recommend you watch this movie because it’s a striking example of how the moderate gains of reconstruction were stolen. Now I’m gonna talk about the people who are in it and then you should watch the movie.
Kent Chatfield’s devotion to this project and the strength of his convictions make him the kind of man I’d like to be one day. He’s credited as an independent researcher and the independent research he has done is the kind of real life Rust Cohle work that deserves a lot more respect than it receives. Dr. Lewis Manly is a descendant of Alex Manly,the black newspaperman whose paper was at the center of violence, and he provides invaluable perspective as an intensely intelligent man with concrete ties to the massacre/coup/injustice/refutation of the idea that America is unique amongst the world’s democracies. Other descendants of black citizens who were killed or otherwise harmed in the violence and destruction of property help to bring home the reality that these events, and all similar events that preceded or followed, have real impact on Americans today. This film is as sound a case for reparations for events that happened after the abolishment of slavery as you will find.To that point, the controversial Dr. Umar Johnson brings up the importance of lasting reparations like land or businesses since cash payments will ultimately just be invested back into the white community that has a near monopoly on land and business in Wilmington thanks in part to the events on 1898. Fair point, watch the movie.
Finally I wanna get back to the idea that authoritarian governments, or military juntas or revolutionary reactionaries or whoever, use a combination of bizarre legal maneuvering and pure physical violence to achieve their goals. Again I’ve had a coupla tall boys But the thing I’m getting at is that there seems to be an equilibrium you can hit where you’ve shown just enough respect for the rule of law that you placate the upper classes and they will look the other way while you kill vulnerable peoples, and given our president-elect’s apparent fondness for Rodrigo Duterte it’s an idea worth chewing on. Anyhow check out the movie. I recommend it. It’s good and I really think the civil war and the periods preceding and following it will deserve study forever. Not just because it’s a remarkable slice of history but also because these years reveal essential truths about America. Racial tensions that existed in this country before 1776 and will exist after I am dead were out in the open in the mid to late 19th century in a way that they have rarely been since and so the time period is an incomparable petri dish in which we can study the causes, methods and results of violent white supremacy in America. Watch the movie for a small taste of a small portion of those things. Goodnight. rare photo of early alt-right leadership