Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC) has proclaimed August 31st as “Golf Day” in North Carolina.
Given his actions yesterday, August 30th was unofficially proclaimed “Jim Crow Law Preservation Day”.
As most of us expected, Gov. Roy “Jim Crow” Cooper (D-NC) vetoed HB 398 which would have repealed the 1919 pistol permit purchase law. That law was enacted by an all white, all Democrat, white supremacist General Assembly within months of a riot involving African-American WW I vets demanding their rights. The co-sponsor of the bill, Sen. Earle A. Humphreys (D-Goldsboro), was the brother-in-law of US Sen. Furnifold Simmons who was the architect of the Democrat’s white supremacy campaign begun in 1898.
It was men like these veterans who terrified the white supremacists. They had been to war, they had defeated the Kaiser, and they had seen Paris so to speak.
In his veto message to the General Assembly, Cooper said:
“Gun permit laws reduce gun homicides and suicides and reduce the availability of guns for criminal activity. At a time of rising gun violence, we cannot afford to repeal a system that works to save lives. The legislature should focus on combating gun violence instead of making it easier for guns to end up in the wrong hands.”
Bear in mind that the repeal of the law was endorsed by the North Carolina Sheriffs Association and that all sales of handguns from dealer go through a NICS check by the FBI. Indeed, once in possession of a pistol purchase permit which is good for five years, there is nothing to stop either a felon or someone convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor from purchasing a handgun from a dealer or a private individual. The pistol purchase permit substitutes for a NICS check and would cover up the lie told by the convicted individual.
The law still requires the sheriff of the county to attest to the “good moral character” of the applicant. In counties with hundreds of thousands of residents or even a million plus, can Cooper and those opposed to the repeal of this law honestly say the sheriff really knows the residents enough to attest to “good moral character”? I think not.
As research on the application of the law in North Carolina’s most populous county – Wake – shows, blacks are still much more likely to be denied a permit than whites. Thus, while laws that are supported by both black and whites regarding voter ID are called discriminatory and “Jim Crow”, an actual Jim Crow law designed by its sponsors to discriminate against blacks and which it still does is vetoed.
A friend elsewhere commented that the pistol purchase permit is nothing but a poll tax on an enumerated right. He was right. The 24th Amendment to the US Constitution eliminated the poll tax for voting but Cooper’s action today keeps it in place with regard to the Second Amendment.
UPDATE: Paul Valone, President of Grass Roots North Carolina, released this statement on Cooper’s veto of HB 398:
“By vetoing House Bill 398 to repeal our Jim Crow-era pistol purchase system, Governor Roy Cooper has made it clear he places political posturing above actually taking action to eradicate racism. He has also shown that he doesn’t care about the thousands of North Carolinians who, amid civil unrest and “defund police” measures, have decided to buy guns to defend their families but are being obstructed by urban sheriffs who violate the law by delaying permits.
“Most ironic is Cooper’s claim that he vetoed the bill due to increasing ‘gun violence’ when, in truth, violent crime had been declining for decades until his own party caused urban homicide rates to skyrocket. Grass Roots North Carolina will be doing its dead level best to over-ride Cooper’s veto while showing the people of North Carolina exactly who their governor really is.”
As philosopher George Santayana wrote, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Taken a step further, historical ignorance is no excuse for opposing a law meant to write a wrong.
In this case, it is the 1919 law originally entitled “an act to regulate the sale of concealed weapons in North Carolina.” Both houses of the North Carolina General Assembly have voted to repeal this law and have sent HB 398 to the governor’s desk where it is likely to be vetoed.
One of the leading opponents of the repeal is Sen. Natasha Marcus (D-Mecklenburg). A lawyer and community organizer, Marcus proudly proclaims her membership in Moms Demand Action. She is a graduate of Hamilton College in New York and the Duke University School of Law.
In her opposition to the repeal, the AP reports this:
The local pistol permit requirement began in 1919 during the Jim Crow era, and some bill supporters argue it’s still preventing law-abiding black residents from obtaining weapons. But a local NAACP leader spoke against the bill earlier Wednesday, and Marcus said such opposition is evidence to her that the current permitting system isn’t racist.
Just because a local NAACP leader spoke against the repeal does not confer racial neutrality upon the law. I’m sure if Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R-NC) who is black had condemned the existing law as discriminatory and based upon a desire for white supremacy – which it was – that Sen. Marcus would ignore it and call Lt. Gov. Robinson just a tool of the NRA.
For Sen. Marcus’ edification and education, here are some links that illustrate the history as well as the disparate impact of the law:
By historian Clayton Cramer – North Carolina’s Permit to Purchase Law: The Rumble Seat of Gun Control Laws?
By Nicholas Gallo in the North Carolina Law Review – Misfire: How the North Carolina Pistol Purchase Permit System Misses the Mark of Constitutional Muster and Effectiveness
I do not hold the fact that Sen. Marcus was born and bred in New York against her. My mother was born and raised in New York and Paul Valone who has been tireless in the fight to overturn this Jim Crow law is also a New York native.
I do hold her ignorance of North Carolina history against her. I also find it contemptuous that she uses the testimony of a NAACP leader as her justification for saying the law is not racist. To be perfectly frank, she couldn’t care less whether it was or was not racist. All that matters to her is that it is gun control of which she is a card carrying supporter.
Every Democrat in the North Carolina Senate save two voted against the repeal of the pistol purchase permit. As I and others have noted many times, the history and purpose of this bill passed in 1919 was to disarm black North Carolinians.
The only two Democrats who didn’t vote against repeal of this Jim Crow law were Sen. Don Davis (D-Greene, Pitt) who didn’t vote and Sen. Ernestine Bazemore (D-Beaufort) who had an excused absence. By contrast, every Republican supported the repeal with the exception of Sen. Bob Steinburg (R-Camden) who had an excused absence.
HB 398 had already passed the NC House of Representatives with bi-partisan support.
The bill has passed its 2nd and 3rd readings and has been enrolled. It now goes to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk where undoubtedly he will continue the Democrat’s support of a law conceived in racism. A law that research in the North Carolina Law Review has shown still discriminates against blacks.
In a day and time when I get virtually daily emails from liberal groups denouncing Confederate statues as racist symbols and college buildings being renamed due to the segregationist past of their namesakes, I find it hard to comprehend just how strongly Democrat legislators, both white and black, cling to a law conceived in racism. Not only was it conceived in racism but the law still has a disparate impact on minorities.
I guess Democrats are more afraid of white women funded by a New York billionaire than they are of their own minority constituents. Go figure.
I just listened in on a public Zoom webinar with Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC) hosted by the Brady PAC and the Democratic Governors Association. It featured Cooper, Wendi Wallace of the DGA, Brian Lemak of Brady PAC, and Kris Brown, president of Brady United.
I should note off the bat that the chat function and any way to ask questions was disabled. I imagine that was to prevent any awkward questions from being raised by the audience.
It started with Wendi Wallace who is the Deputy Executive Director of the DGA. She came to them from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund last year. She was praising the efforts of the governors of Nevada and New Mexico to bring more gun control to those states.
The conversation then switched to Brian Lemak and Kris Brown. Among the things they said is they are hoping that with Roy Cooper that they can make North Carolina into the next Virginia. In other words, to impose gun control from on high upon the people of North Carolina. They said they are making North Carolina one of their highest priorities at all levels – Federal, state, and even county commissions.
Finally they allowed Cooper to speak. He welcomed this opportunity to talk about “gun safety”. Cooper then started out by saying the usual boilerplate of I grew up on a farm, I am a gun owner, and I support the Second Amendment. He then segued into his support for “responsible gun laws” and talked about the campus shooting at UNC-Charlotte.
Cooper then went to talk about how Obama carried North Carolina in 2008 but that there was a Republican “backlash” in 2010 which allowed them to take both houses of the General Assembly. Not only that but those Republicans had the temerity to gerrymander the state to keep their seats. This led to the state “going backwards on gun laws”.
He said when he was elected in 2016 that the Republicans still held a super-majority in the General Assembly. Cooper said he had three tools with which to stop “bad legislation”: the bully pulpit, the veto, and executive orders. This is where he noted his veto of HB 652 saying guns didn’t belong in schools. I’m not going into that here with the exception of noting that the bill only applied to schools attached to churches and that no firearm were allowed during school hours including during extracurricular events.
As to executive orders, Cooper said he ordered the State Bureau of Investigation to send over 200,000 more names to the NICS system after it was discovered a number of convictions had not been reported. What he didn’t say and didn’t want the listeners to know is that for most of his tenure as Attorney General of North Carolina (2000-2016), the SBI was under his control. It was only moved from the Department of Justice to the Department of Public Safety in 2014.
Cooper moved on to existing laws including the Jim Crow-era pistol purchase permit law. He said he wanted to expand that law to include “assault weapons”. He thought honest and responsible gun owners would go along with that. Cooper also mentioned his support for red flag laws.
The discussion then moved into more political matters such as mail-in ballots, how the Brady PAC planned to focus on not only Cooper’s race but the race for Lt. Governor, the pandemic, etc. Then Cooper said how he said the fight against “systemic racism” need to be a priority.
This is where I exploded.
What more obvious an example of systematic racism exists than a law specifically passed to prevent African-Americans from having access to handguns, other concealable weapons, and pump shotguns! Historian Clayton Cramer found in his research that the impact of the law was “to grant discretion to local white officials to use their discretion to disarm nearly all blacks and some disreputable whites of deadly weapons.”
All four on the webinar today would have denied that gun control had its origins in keeping African-Americans disarmed. However, the record is what it is and it’s legacy is systematic racism that progressives say they abhor.
As to the rest of the webinar, I couldn’t take any more and turned it off.
The weekly compilation from the Brady Campaign had an attack on the filibuster. Quoting former President Obama, it was called a “Jim Crow relic”.
This week, President Obama called for the elimination of the filibuster: an arcane rule in the Senate that requires a supermajority of 60 votes, instead of 51, to pass nearly any bill. Our movement knows all too well the dangers of this rule. It’s what stopped Congress from passing lifesaving gun reform legislation following the Sandy Hook massacre.
They were 54 votes in favor and 46 against — clearly a simple majority! But the 60-vote rule stopped Congress from acting even after 26 students and educators were shot and killed.
Enough is enough. Why do we need a 60-vote threshold to pass a bill that will save American lives? Fifty-one is the majority, and 51 is fair.
We’re not asking for a lot. We’re simply calling for a simple majority vote — fair and square — to pass lifesaving, evidence-based policy solutions to end gun violence. There’s no excuse for senseless gun violence, especially when legislative solutions have been sitting before Mitch McConnell and the U.S. Senate for over 500 days!
We need to let every Senator know that #51IsFair and gun violence is a national emergency.
Actually, the filibuster and its use in the US Senate predates both the origin of Jim Crow laws and the Civil War. According to a history of it as published by the Senate, unlimited debate was allowed in both the House and Senate. The growth in the number of representatives saw it discontinued in the House but unlimited debate continued in the Senate. Its use to block bills came to the forefront in the 1840s when unlimited debate was used to block a banking bill. The concept of cloture or the ending of unlimited debate by a vote only came into existence in 1917 at the urging of President Woodrow Wilson.
The history of Jim Crow laws and black codes began in 1865 with the adoption of the 13th Amendment which ended slavery and involuntary servitude in the United States once and for all. The black codes were laws enacted at the state and local level which restricted former slaves as to where, when, and how they could work and also restricted their compensation. It served to put many blacks into indentured servitude.
Jim Crow laws were a follow-on that served to enforce segregation, to ban inter-racial marriage, to keep blacks disenfranchised, and, for the purposes of my discussion here, disarmed.
Let’s talk about two of those Jim Crow relics that I’ve written about in the past. The first from Florida and the second from my home state of North Carolina.
After armed black men using their Winchester repeating rifles prevented a lynching in Jacksonville, Florida, the Florida legislature enacted a law that required a permit for Floridians to carry a handgun or a “Winchester rifle or other repeating rifle.” It was the first law nationwide that treated repeating rifles differently than any other firearm. It was the antecedent to modern day “assault weapons” (sic) bans in states like California and New York (among others).
One need only look to the official proclamations of the Democratic Party and their standard bearer Joe Biden to see that support for such Jim Crow relics as a ban on repeating rifles lives on. In their ideological blindness, neither the Democrats nor the Brady Campaign suffer any cognitive dissonance in pushing Jim Crow originated gun control while attacking the filibuster as a “Jim Crow relic”.
I have written often on this blog about North Carolina’s pistol purchase permit and its role in perpetuating white supremacy in the early 20th century. It was enacted in 1919 soon after a race riot in Winston-Salem. There was a great fear of black veterans returning from World War One. The co-primary sponsor of the bill was Sen. Earle A. Humphreys (D-Goldsboro). Humphrey just happened to be the brother-in-law of US Sen. Furnifold Simmons who was the architect of the Democrat’s white supremacy campaign. The goal was to make it difficult if not impossible for blacks as well as Populists and union organizers to be armed outside the home.
Every time in the last decade a repeal of the pistol purchase permit system in North Carolina is tried, it ultimately fails. Part of that failure is due to recalcitrant sheriffs who don’t want to give up the power or money and the obsequious nature of Republicans towards law enforcement. The other part is due to the unified nature of Democrats and the gun control lobby in opposition. That includes the Brady Campaign. Current Brady Campaign President Kris Brown characterized the repeal effort as rolling back “our decades of a lifesaving policy requiring a background check and a “permit to purchase” for every handgun sale.”
She was wrong. It was an effort to rid the state of the then-98 years of institutionalized racism in the form of a Jim Crow law to keep blacks unarmed and subservient.
It is the height of hypocrisy on the part of the Brady Campaign to rail against the filibuster as a “Jim Crow relic” because it stood in their way of enacting a gun control law. A law that had its very antecedent in a Jim Crow law meant to make it “safer” for racists to lynch innocent blacks.
To be honest, when have politicians or the gun control industry let a little thing like hypocrisy ever get in the way of their pursuit of power.
The answer is never.
Wake County (NC) Sheriff Gerald Baker should be feeling a bit uneasy right about now. That’s because three of my favorite groups – Grass Roots North Carolina, the Second Amendment Foundation, and the Firearms Policy Coalition – have come together to file suit against Baker’s refusal to even take applications for the Jim Crow-era pistol purchase permit.
For those that don’t know, in North Carolina, you need a pistol purchase permit to purchase a handgun regardless of whether it is from a dealer or a private individual unless you possess a NC Concealed Handgun Permit. As I’ve written about it many a time, the law was passed in 1919 in an unspoken but well understood effort to keep African-Americans, Populists, and union backers disarmed.
The suit has been filed in US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The individual plaintiff is Kerry Stafford who decided a handgun was the proper firearm with which to defend herself and her family. After calling the Wake County sheriff’s department for an PPP application, she was refused.
The complaint alleges that Sheriff Baker has exceeded his discretion and has violated the Second and Fourteenth Amendments depriving Ms. Stafford and others of their constitutional rights under color of law. It asks that either an injunction be issued or that the requirement for a pistol purchase permit be waived until April 30th.
GRNC, SAF, FPC File Federal Lawsuit Against Wake County, NC Sheriff Over Constitutional Violations
RALEIGH, NC (March 27, 2020) — Today, attorneys for an individual Wake County, North Carolina resident, Grass Roots North Carolina, Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), and Firearms Policy Coalition filed a federal lawsuit challenging Wake County Sheriff Gerald M. Baker’s recent actions infringing on Second and Fourteenth Amendment rights he announced as a response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. A copy of the lawsuit can be found at:
This latest case tracks a 2011 federal court victory in Bateman v. Perdue, also led by plaintiffs Second Amendment Foundation and Grass Roots North Carolina, which successfully challenged North Carolina statutes restricting firearms during states of emergency.
“Although Sheriff Gerald Baker claims his refusal to accept applications for pistol purchase permits and concealed handgun permits doesn’t infringe on individual rights, nothing could be further from the truth,” said GRNC president Paul Valone. “During this emergency, as always, GRNC intends to ensure that lawful North Carolinians have the means to protect themselves and their families.”
“Sheriff Baker is implementing by fiat what the Supreme Court struck down in Heller – a ban on a citizen’s right to purchase a handgun for the defense of hearth and home. This action cannot be allowed to stand,” said GRNC Director of Legal Affairs Ed Green.
“Times of emergency is when you need the ability to obtain the means of self-defense the most. Suspending that right is not acceptable. That is why this lawsuit is so important,” commented SAF founder and Executive Vice President, Alan Gottlieb.
“Sheriff Baker’s unconstitutional actions have and will deprive law-abiding, peaceable individuals the opportunity to obtain handguns, the ‘quintessential self-defense weapon’ according to the U.S. Supreme Court, in a time where the arms are most needed,” explained attorney and FPC Director of Legal Strategy, Adam Kraut. “Sheriff Baker’s actions to stop processing and issuing required Pistol Purchase Permits violate fundamental human rights. We are proud to join GRNC and SAF in this fight to defend the rights of North Carolinians.”
Individual arms applicants/purchasers and retailers affected by ‘stay-home’ or shutdown orders can report potential civil rights violations to FPC’s COVID-19 Issue Hotline at www.FPChotline.org.
Plaintiffs are represented by attorneys Ed Green, Raymond M. DiGuiseppe, and Adam Kraut.
Grass Roots North Carolina (www.grnc.org) is North Carolina’s most effective gun rights organization. GRNC was founded in 1994 as an independent, all-volunteer 501(c)(4) not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving constitutional freedoms. The organization’s projects are primarily devoted to defending the individual right to keep and bear arms.
Second Amendment Foundation (www.saf.org) is the nation’s oldest and largest tax-exempt education, research, publishing, and legal action group focusing on the Constitutional right and heritage to privately own and possess firearms. Founded in 1974, The Foundation has grown to more than 650,000 members and supporters and conducts many programs designed to better inform the public about the consequences of gun control.
Firearms Policy Coalition (www.firearmspolicy.org) is a 501(c)4 grassroots nonprofit organization. FPC’s mission is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, especially the fundamental, individual Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, advance individual liberty, and restore freedom.
“Guns don’t have much legitimate purpose in cities outside of the hands of trained law enforcement,” Cook said. “I think many cities would want to reinstitute a blanket ban or licensing requirements on carrying in public.”
Philip Cook is the ITT/Terry Sanford Professor Emeritus of Public Policy Studies at Duke University. He is a well-known researcher in “gun violence” (sic) with a significant anti-gun bias. The quote above comes from Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle, in which Cook was interviewed about past and proposed firearms-related legislation in the North Carolina General Assembly.
He advocated much tighter restrictions on concealed carry as well as doing away with state preemption so that cities like Durham where Duke is located could enact their own gun controls. As to enacting a ban on carrying in public, at least for open carrying, it would be an unconstitutional act. The North Carolina Supreme Court decided that in 1922 in the case of State v. Keener where the court ruled that open carrying was a constitutional right.
Another gem in this article deals with a total mischaracterization of why North Carolina has the pistol purchase permit wherein one must apply for a permit from their local sheriff to buy a handgun.
“That is relatively unusual, especially among Southern states,” said Cook, who researches gun control and crime prevention…
“The wisdom of the time [in 1919] was that rifles and shotguns are used for hunting and target shooting and other sports uses. Handguns are used against people,” Cook said. “And I think that remains true today.”
No, the wisdom of the time had nothing to do with handguns being used against people. The wisdom of the time was that blacks, union organizers, populists, and even Republicans had to be kept relatively disarmed. This was so that these people could not present a challenge to segregationist Democrats and their Klan allies. I have researched it extensively and have had many posts over the years on this subject. You can find some of them here, here, and here. I would note again that the co-sponsor of the 1919 bill was State Sen. Earle A. Humphrey (D-Goldsboro) who was the brother-in-law of ardent segregationist and Democrat party boss Furnifold Simmons.
I just received an email from the Brady Campaign railing about North Carolina HB 588 and how it rolls back “four decades” of “lifesaving background checks”. I’ll let you read it first and then I will comment on it.
The corporate gun industry is bringing its fight to weaken lifesaving background checks to North Carolina! Right now, they’re pushing H.B. 588, a dangerous bill that would dramatically undermine the current background check system, through the state legislature.
This bill would roll back at least four decades of a lifesaving policy requiring a background check and a “permit to purchase” for every handgun sale. If this bill passes, dangerous people will easily be able to acquire handguns at gun shows, online or from private individuals without any background check whatsoever.
These permits are proven to lower suicide rates. And when Missouri eliminated a similar law in 2007, the state saw a 25 percent increase in the gun murder rate!
H.B. 588 would also require universities, community colleges, and some houses of worship to allow hidden loaded handguns on campus — even against their wishes.
The House Judiciary Committee is expected to consider H.B. 588 at any time. It’s critical that we STOP this bill before it goes any further — and before it has the chance to put North Carolina lives at risk.
Call committee members today and urge them to oppose H.B. 588 and stand up for lifesaving gun laws!
Chief Strategy Officer
First let’s be clear – HB 588 does not eliminate the pistol purchase permit as much as I’d like to see it do that. It merely changes how the mental health reporting requirement is implemented. Nothing more and nothing less in that section of the bill.
What the Brady Campaign calls “four decades of a lifesaving policy requiring a background check and a ‘permit to purchase’ for every handgun sales” is actually 98 years of institutionalized racism. They won’t say it but it is what it is.
The pistol purchase permit system was adopted by the General Assembly in 1919 for the implied purpose of denying blacks – and especially those who were veterans that had just come back from France in World War I – the ability to have a handgun for self-defense. There had been significant racial unrest in various North Carolina cities post-war with a major riot in Winston-Salem in late 1918. The “Act to Regulate the Sale of Concealed Weapons in North Carolina” was adopted soon after in March 1919. The primary sponsor of the bill was State Sen. Earle A. Humphrey (D-Goldsboro). Sen. Humphrey’s brother-in-law, US Sen. Furnifold Simmons, was the architect of the NC Democrat’s segregationist political agenda. I think you can connect the dots here.
The bill would allow a person with a valid carry permit to carry on school property that is also used for worship services AFTER school hours. My thinking is that was included as many church communities have instituted security teams consisting of trained congregation members.
And yes, HB 588 would allow campus carry at both community colleges and public universities in North Carolina. And, yes, it is against the wishes of university administrators because, let’s face it, they are anti anything that takes power out of their hands including a monopoly on the power of violence. That said, I also don’t know of any public university campus in North Carolina that is fenced and has controlled entry. While they all have their police forces they also are all open to criminals and potential terrorists.
HB 588 does clarify that merely possessing or carrying a firearm, openly or legally concealed, is not grounds for charging a person with going in terror of the public. Many citizens who were legally open carrying and minding their own business have been charged with “going in terror of the public”. These cases also are usually thrown out of court because walking down a public sidewalk in a non-threatening manner while open carrying is not a crime in North Carolina.
Instead of calling legislators to ask them to stop HB 588, I suggest calling them to demand an end to 98 years of institutionalized racism and an end to keeping our sons and daughters as defenseless targets in officially gun free zones.
In any discussion of the 1919 act regulating the purchase of certain weapons in North Carolina, you have to go back to the state of politics as they existed in the 1890s. Post-Reconstruction, the Democrats had regained power in the state from the Republicans. However, this dominance was threatened in the 1890s by the rise of what was called Fusion politics. The Republicans and the Populist Party in North Carolina, while they differed on a national agenda, agreed on many items including education, voting rights, and the restoration of the charter of the Farmer’s Alliance which the Democrat-controlled General Assembly had revoked.
The guiding principle behind the fusion of the Republicans and the Populists was that they would agree to support the stronger candidate in each race against the Democrat’s candidate. Sometimes this would be the Populist and sometimes this would be the Republican. The elections of 1894 showed the success of the fusion approach. The Fusionists gained six US House seats from the Democrats; two for the Republicans and four for the Populists. They also elected both US Senators and took a super-majority in both house of the NC General Assembly. They repeated this success in the elections of 1896 where they widened their lead in the General Assembly, picked up another US House seat, and Republican Daniel Russell was elected governor. The General Assembly that convened in 1895 had five African-Americans as members and it loosened voting restrictions on blacks. As a result, voting participation of African-Americans increased significantly.
The Democrats had to come up with a strategy to overcome the successful fusion between the Populists and Republicans. They turned to New Bern attorney Furnifold M. Simmons who was appointed chairman of the NC Democratic Party. Simmons organized local party organizations in each county as well as a speaker’s bureau of orators such as South Carolina’s infamous Pitchfork Ben Tillman. The overriding strategy was based upon one thing: white supremacy.
The “white supremacy campaign” was exactly that. The Democrats repeatedly stated that only white men were fit to hold political office. They often accused the fusionists, especially the Republicans, of supporting “negro domination” in the state. Indeed, there were a large number of African American officeholders, some of whom had been elected and many more who were appointed to office. The Democrats referred to themselves as the “white man’s party” and appealed to white North Carolinians to restore them to power.
One of the most significant events of the campaign was the appearance of an editorial in the Wilmington Daily Record on August 18, 1898. The Daily Record was an African American newspaper published by Alex Manly. The editorial was a response to a speech by a Georgia woman who had called for the widespread lynching of African American men in order to protect white women. The Daily Record suggested that consensual relationships between African American men and white women were common and that often the man was accused of rape only after the relationship was discovered. Once the Democratic papers got hold of the editorial there was an uproar. Under headings such as “Vile and Villainous” and “A Horrid Slander,” the editorial was reprinted throughout the state. Some Democratic papers continued to run it in almost every single issue up to election day.
Not only was the election of 1898 built around white supremacy, it featured the intimidation of black voters by the neo-Fascist Red Shirts at the behest of Simmons as well as an actual coup d’etat after the election in Wilmington. Josephus Daniels, publisher of the News and Observer and an ardent white supremacist, said of Simmons that he was “a genius in putting everybody to
work—men who could write, men who could speak, and men who could ride—the last by no means the least important.” (As an aside, the News and Observer is editorializing in favor of keeping Jim Crow laws from that era.)
The role of newspapers such as the N&O, the Charlotte Observer, the Wilmington Morning Star, and the Wilmington Messenger cannot be understated. While their current staff and readership would be appalled by the overtly racist messages they published, they were the essential propaganda arm of the Democratic Party in North Carolina. In an era before the advent of TV and radio, the newspapers were the media. They conveyed the message to their readers through both editorials and through cartoons aimed at the less literate. Norman Jennett’s cartoons for the N&O ran above the fold and were praised by Democrats as “one of the powers that brought about the revolution.” Many of them can be found here.
On the eve of the 1898 election, Simmons wrote an editorial that laid out the reasons to vote for the Democrats and at its heart was the cause of white supremacy. It appeared on the front page of Daniels’ N&O on November 3rd.
Then came the evidence, disclosing the actual condition of affairs, in that section of the State, which astonished and shocked the consciences and moral sensibilities of the people.
NEGRO CONGRESSMEN, NEGRO SOLICITORS, NEGRO REVENUE OFFICERS, NEGRO COLLECTORS OF CUSTOMS, NEGROES in charge of white institutions, NEGROES in charge of white schools, NEGROES holding inquests over the white dead, NEGROES controlling the finances of great cities, NEGROES in control of the sanitation and police of cities, NEGRO CONSTABLES arresting white women and white men, NEGRO MAGISTRATES trying white women and white men, white convicts chained to NEGRO CONVICTS and forced to social equality with them, until the proofs rose up, and stood forth “like Pelion on Ossa piled.”….
The battle has been fought, the victory is within our reach. North Carolina is a WHITE MAN’S State, and WHITE MEN will rule it, and they will crush the party of negro domination beneath a majority so overwhelming that no other party will ever again dare to attempt to establish negro rule here.
They CANNOT intimidate us; they CANNOT buy us, and they SHALL NOT cheat us out of the fruits of our victory.
And victory was what the Democrats got in 1898. They gained back five seats in Congress from the Populists and Republicans and a super majority in the General Assembly (2 Populists and a smattering of mountain Republicans remained). While the fusionists won in Wilmington, then the state’s largest city, that lasted all of two days until white supremacists rioted and took over the city council from the elected representatives in what became known as the Wilmington Massacre.
They consolidated their gains in 1900 with the election of Democrat Charles B. Aycock as governor, the appointment of Simmons as US Senator, and a constitutional amendment that imposed both a poll tax and a literacy test. The amendment contained a grandfather clause enabling anyone whose ancestors were eligible to vote prior to 1867 to vote. Voter turnout dropped from around 85% in 1896 to less than 50% thereafter. A Republican would not be governor of North Carolina again until 1972 and a Republican majority in either house of the General Assembly until 2010.
Not only had the Democrats cemented their power but so had Furnifold Simmons. He would serve in the US Senate for 30 years and would use the power of patronage to maintain his control. Only once in the succeeding years was his candidate defeated for governor in the Democratic primary and then he worked to destroy the man. His organization wrote journalist W. J. Cash reached to “the headwaters of every Little Buffalo and Sandy Run in North Carolina; into every alley of every factory town.” The Democratic Party controlled a segregationist North Carolina and the Simmons Machine controlled the Democratic Party.
Part III will cover the passage of the act through the General Assembly in 1919 with the primary sponsor being none other than Simmons’ brother-in-law Sen. Earle A. Humphrey (D-Goldsboro).