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Jack Thorne, b. 1863
Hanover; or, The Persecution of the Lowly. Story of the Wilmington Massacre
[S.l.]: M.C.L. Hill, [18-?].

Summary

David Bryant Fulton, who wrote under the pseudonym Jack Thorne, was an African American journalist, essayist, and novelist. He was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, but spent most of his adolescence in Wilmington. In 1887, he followed the path of many other Southern black men and left Wilmington to become a Pullman porter in the North. Fulton, however, remained close to his North Carolina roots. In the 1890s, he began writing dispatches for Alexander L. Manly's Wilmington Daily Record. Fulton's observations focused on African American life and race relations in the cities along his Pullman route and were collected in 1892 as Recollections of a Sleeping Car Porter. In 1901, Fulton published Hanover, a fictionalized account of the 1898 Wilmington Race Riots. Fulton spent the rest of his life in Brooklyn, New York, writing polemical articles, essays, short stories, and poems. Fulton's prose and fiction reflected his racial pride and fond memories of his North Carolina home.

Hanover is a thinly veiled fictional account of what has been called variously the Wilmington "race riot," "massacre," or "coup d'etat" that occurred on November 10, 1898. On this day, a white militia, headed by Colonel Alfred Moore Waddell, a local Democratic leader, burned the office of the Daily Record, an African American newspaper, and generally wreaked havoc in black neighborhoods. By the end of the week, at least fourteen black citizens were dead, and much of the city's black leadership had been banished. The Wilmington massacre spurred on the statewide disfranchisement campaign to crush African American political participation. Contemporary white chronicles of the event either directly or indirectly blamed the African American community for the violence and exonerated white actions as an unfortunate, but necessary, step towards racial and political reform. In contrast, Fulton casts black Wilmington as defiantly heroic, falling victim to the "persecution of the lowly" at the hands of powerful white Democrats.

In the novel, Fulton bases the central character of "the editor" on Alexander Manly, and other characters are composites of real African American residents. The real Waddell becomes "the Colonel," and other white leaders are also given fictional guises. The novel begins with the editor refusing to retract his response, published in the Wilmington Record, to a racist article written by a white woman, Mrs. Fells. The Colonel and other white leaders construe the editor's response as an attack on white womanhood. Hungry for political power and playing on the white community's fears of miscegenation and economic imbalance, the Colonel begins to organize an armed band, composed mostly of poor whites, to intimidate Wilmington's black citizens into submission, and more specifically, into not exercising their voting rights on the November election day. One of the white leaders, Ben Hartright, tells his African American mistress, Molly Pierrepont, of the plot. Molly, whose character is one of the strongest black women in early African American literature, writes a letter of warning to her aunt that outlines the group's plans, names the mob's specific targets, and offers future assistance. Molly awakens on the morning of November 10 to the sound of cannon fire at the cotton press. Determining this cannon fire to be a kind of ruse to lure black residents out of their work and homes, she again tries to help by warning the community. She cannot, however, stop the bloodthirsty white mob, and they begin to flood the streets of Wilmington, terrorizing any black citizens, including children, who do not obey their demands. The novel's closing pages follow key characters, including Molly, as they flee to the North, leaving their North Carolina homes forever.

Works Consulted: Powell, William S., ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986; and Margaret Frances Peterson, "Suspended Animation: Race Relations in the Literature of Charles Waddell Chesnutt, David Bryant Fulton and James Ephraim McGirt" (M.A. thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1972).

Michael Sistrom

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