A new short film just released to the public depicts a particularly dark part of North Carolina’s extraordinary history. In 1898, the only successful coup d’état in American history took place in the Tar Heel state. The 1898 insurrection in Wilmington, is the topic of the short film, “In the Pines,” produced by the John Locke Foundation.
The film recently premiered to a full house at The Cary Theater in the triangle area. To date, Pines has racked up four film festivals awards, including two for Best Drama, and was selected to be screened in three more festivals.
Later this week, the film will be screened at the South Italy Independent Film Festival in Barletta, Italy.
Creative director and producer, Greg de Deugd calls it a “historical drama, a tragedy about three kids who get caught up in racial and political violence in turn-of-the-century North Carolina.”
The 2015 documentary “Wilmington on Fire” and the 2020 book “Wilmington’s Lie” also told the story of the 1898 insurrection, but Pines approaches this complex story in a unique manner. The film follows Scarlett Manning the daughter of prominent newspaper editor Williford Manning, who shares her personal account of the events. The film is framed within the context of a documentary crew in the 1960s who are producing a film about Scarlett and her recollection of the events that took place.
Dr. Troy Kickler, the managing director of the North Carolina History Curriculum Project, consulted for the film, and put the events into historical context, describing the political atmosphere in the late 1800’s.
“In 1890s North Carolina, you get a phenomenon which the Democratic Party called fusion politics,” Kickler said. “It’s called fusion politics because you have the cooperation between the Populist Party and the Republican Party. The Democratic Party was losing their power to fusionist political gain. So, the Democratic Party tried to work to regain that power and it’s in this environment in which the Wilmington coup d’état occurred on November 10, 1898.”
The film portrays the role of the Red Shirts, a white supremacist paramilitary group that collaborated with the Democratic Party during the 1898 insurrection. The Red Shirts are depicted attacking Manning at the Wilmington Daily Record, the only black-owned daily newspaper in the country. Subsequently, a mob stormed the newspaper offices, destroyed the facilities, and burned down the printing presses. This, along with other events, on that November 10th led to the eventual overthrow of the fusion government in Wilmington.
“A White Democratic Mayor took office in Wilmington and a White Democratic council replaced the sitting elected council.” said Kickler.
According to Kickler, Previous attempts to tell this story neglected to acknowledge the political party that played a significant role in the events of 1898, but “In the Pines” covers this important part of both United States and North Carolina history.
“In the Pines doesn’t avoid the phrase Democratic Party, which was used in the late 1800’s to describe what had happened in Wilmington,” said Kickler.
Another summer screening of the film is slated for the Anthem Film Festival in Memphis, Tennessee, this June.