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CoastLine: Wilmington is on fire with new Black power, prosperity, and self-reliance, says documentarian Christopher Everett

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Christopher Everett produced the documentary film Wilmington on Fire in 2015. It's the story of the only successful coup d'état in American history.

Most of us know the story – or at least the basics – of the only successful coup d'état in American history.  The 1898 Wilmington, NC massacre perpetrated by white supremacists which killed citizens, forced elected officials from office, and drove successful Black professionals out of the city. But documentary filmmaker Christopher Everett, who produced Wilmington On Fire in 2015, is working on Wilmington On Fire Part II. He's telling a new story of Black power, prosperity, and self-reliance fueling a resurgence of a thriving African American population in the port city.

There’s a new energy around town. It’s a fire that Wilmington, North Carolina hasn’t seen in almost 125 years. In his next project, documentary filmmaker Christopher Everett argues that the Black entrepreneurial and professional class is coming back after being gutted in November 1898.

The 2015 film, Wilmington On Fire, tells the story of what scholars still call the only successful coup d'état on American soil – although there are other, similar massacres perpetrated by white supremacists. Those attacks ushered in the Jim Crow era, effectively ending Reconstruction after the Civil War.

Making Wilmington On Fire changed Christopher Everett’s life in some fundamental ways: he met his wife during the making of that film. He established himself as a documentarian to be reckoned with, accepted a post at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and later joined the Southern Documentary Fund as Program Manager – where he is today.

Wilmington On Fire Part Two is now in the works, and it turns the title on its head. It tells the story of new Black power, prosperity, and self-reliance fueling a resurgence of a thriving African American population in the port city.

On this edition of CoastLine, we find out what led Christopher Everett to documentary filmmaking, and how the untold story of the Laurinburg Institute in his hometown of Laurinburg, NC led him to Wilmington.


Christopher Everett, documentary filmmaker, Speller Street Films; program manager, Southern Documentary Fund


Wilmington On Fire

Cape Fear Museum: https://www.capefearmuseum.com/exhibits/wilmington-massacre-and-coup-detat-of-1898-timeline-of-events/

A Day of Blood by LeRae Sikes Umfleet:


1898 Wilmington, North Carolina Race Riot Commission Report:


Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.