CoastLine: Lucy McCauley on the crimes of her white ancestors and her role in racial reconciliation
Lucy McCauley was well into adulthood — married and raising her daughter — when she discovered her white ancestors had enslaved people. A few years later, she learned her great-grandfather, William Berry McKoy, was a key figure in facilitating the violence that led to a coup d'état in Wilmington, North Carolina in November 1898. What's she doing with that knowledge? How do the actions of her forebears inform her own identity?
As we examine events traditionally omitted from textbooks, such as the 1898 coup d'état in Wilmington, North Carolina, and as we learn more about the long-term impacts on African-Americans descended from enslaved people, our understanding of present-day America evolves.
What we do with this new understanding is at the center of a public debate about racial reconciliation.
Is the past really in the past?
An NPR / IPSOS poll from August 2020 finds that most Americans, 58%, agree white people have an advantage in this country as a result of institutional racism. However, white Americans are split almost perfectly down the middle on the question of whether changes still need to be made to help Black Americans. And a small minority of whites, just 21%, believes reparations are in order for those whose ancestors were enslaved.
Since there’s no agreement on what to do about the crimes perpetrated by white Americans on Black Americans, whether through enslavement, lynching, Jim Crow laws, or Wilmington’s 1898 coup, there is no rule book or protocol or clear way forward.
Lucy McCauley is finding her own way. It wasn’t until after she married and was raising her daughter that she discovered her white ancestors had enslaved people. A few years later, she learned her great-grandfather, William Berry McKoy, was a key figure in facilitating the violence that led to a coup d'état in Wilmington, North Carolina in November 1898.
On this edition of CoastLine, we find out what this writer and documentary filmmaker is doing with that knowledge, and why, even though she doesn’t describe herself as wealthy, she used her inheritance for a scholarship to mitigate the harm of white supremacy in Wilmington.
Lucy McCauley, writer, documentary filmmaker, Facing the Nazi Era
Howe Scholarship Endowment to benefit African-American students interested in the building arts: https://www.nccommunityfoundation.org/list-of-funds/howe-scholarship-endowment
Lucy McCauley column in the StarNews:
Coming to the Table: https://comingtothetable.org/
Community Conversations: https://communityconversationsilm.com/
Restorative Justice Collaborative, University of North Carolina Wilmington: https://uncw.edu/engagement/rjc/
Be The Bridge: https://bethebridge.com/about/
Be the Bridge (Wilmington):
International Organization for Compensation and Reparations for the Victims of the Wilmington, NC Massacre of 1898, Inc.:
Support The Port: https://www.supporttheport.com/
New Hanover County Slave Deeds
Howe Family Architects: