Cape Fear Rising
Cape Fear Rising
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 three novels and six books of nonfiction, including Down the Wild Cape Fear: A River Journey Through the Heart of North Carolina and The Patron Saint of Dreams, winner of the 2012 North American Gold Medal in Essay/Creative Nonfiction from The Independent Publisher.