The Coup Attempt That Didn’t Fail

The Wilmington Coup of 1898, America’s only successful overthrow of an elected government, has eerie parallels to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol

Marlon Weems
Published in
11 min readJun 3, 2021
The remains of the office of the Wilmington Daily Record, Wilmington’s Black-owned newspaper, after its destruction by a mob of White supremacists in the Wilmington coup and massacre, November 10, 1898. Image: Wikipedia Commons

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does often rhyme.” ~Mark Twain, American author and humorist

On January 6, 2021, a mob of Trump supporters, consisting of White supremacist militias, members of the military, and law enforcement, attacked the U.S. Capitol in an armed insurrection. The objective of the rioters was to stop the peaceful transfer of power.

As the world watched in real time, the predominantly White crowd ransacked the seat of American democracy. Violent rioters beat police with flags, while others waved the Confederate flag in the Capitol rotunda, an act that had never occurred previously — not even during the Civil War.

Hours later, with the country still reeling from the attempt to overthrow the government, a majority of the House Republican caucus voted to overturn the results of the Electoral College vote. Even in the Senate, eight Republicans joined in the baseless effort to nullify the confirmation of the Biden-Harris ticket.

At its core, the Jan. 6 insurrection and the Republican votes to decertify the Biden-Harris election victory was a failed coup attempt. But while the effort to overturn the 2020 election was a shock to the system, it failed. The only successful coup in America’s history occurred in the waning days of Reconstruction when White supremacists succeeded in overthrowing a city’s lawfully elected government.

The Wilmington Coup

On November 10, 1898, White supremacist Democrats staged a violent attack by an armed mob of roughly 2,000 White men in Wilmington, North Carolina. Led by the city’s light infantry and a band of vigilantes armed with rifles and a Gatling gun, their objective was to remove the city’s elected Fusionist government to install White supremacist Democratic Party members. The mob forced the city’s elected leaders out of office at gunpoint, demolished local businesses, and destroyed the property of Wilmington’s Black citizens, including The



Marlon Weems

Storyteller. 2x Top Writer. Subscribe to my newsletter: https://linktr.ee/thejourneyman