Cape Fear Rising
Cape Fear Rising
By Philip Gerard
25th Anniversary Edition
“[A] complex and convincing…story that smartly limns the tangled combination of economic, social and visceral elements that led Wilmington to violence and …would lead North Carolina to adopt constitutional amendments that virtually disenfranchised blacks.”—Publishers Weekly
“Entertaining historical fiction that packs a telling contemporary punch.”—Booklist
“…more than just a tale of racism and freedom of expression, Cape Fear Rising brings to the forefront an embarrassing moment in United States history when the building blocks of democracy utterly collapsed.”—Encore Magazine
“Cape Fear Rising…accomplishes what we hope is the business of powerful fiction: it takes you there; it helps you understand the world a little better. His dialogue is raw and convincing, and you can smell this 19th-century world on the front door of the 21st century, though stubbornly holding onto the past.”—Randall Kenan, author of Walking on Water: Black American Lives at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century
In August 1898, Wilmington, North Carolina, was a Mecca for middle-class Negroes. Many of the city's lawyers, businessmen, and other professionals were black, as were all the tradesmen and stevedores. Negroes outnumbered whites by more than two to one. But the white civic leaders, many descended from the antebellum aristocracy, did not consider this progress. They looked around and saw working class whites out of jobs. They heard Negroes addressing whites "in the familiar." They hated the fact that local government was run by Republican "Fusionists" sympathetic to the black majority. Rumors began to fly. The newspaper office turned into an arsenal. Secret societies espousing white supremacy were formed. Isolated incidents occurred: a shot was fired through a streetcar bearing whites, a black cemetery was desecrated. This incendiary atmosphere was inflamed further by public speeches from an ex-Confederate colonel and a firebrand Negro preacher. One morning in November, the almost inevitable gunfire began. By the time order was restored, many of the city's most visible black leaders had been literally put on trains and told to leave town, hundreds of blacks were forced to hide out in the city's cemetery or the nearby swamps to avoid massacre, and dozens of victims lay dead. Based on actual events, Cape Fear Rising tells a story of one city's racial nightmare—a nightmare that was repeated throughout the South at the turn of the century. Although told as fiction, the core of this novel strikes at the heart of racial strife in America.
PHILIP GERARD is the author of five novels, eight works of nonfiction, and numerous essays on history, music, and writing craft. He teaches in the BFA and MFA Programs of the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He is co-editor with his wife, Jill Gerard, of Chautauqua, the literary journal of the Chautauqua Institution. He and Jill live in Wilmington, NC, on Whiskey Creek near the Intracoastal Waterway.