A War in Black and White
The election of 1898 is a turning point in the history of North Carolina. Democrats
disenfranchised black men, passed the first Jim Crow Car Law in North Carolina, incited a bloody uprising, and staged the only coup d’état in United States history to take control of North Carolina’s largest city, Wilmington. One of the key characters in this political drama was a cartoonist, Norman Ethre Jennett.
n the 1890s, the economic fortunes of farmers were dashed when the cotton market collapsed. During this time, the reign of the North Carolina Democratic party had shown favor to industry and the railroads.1 The cries and grievances of the struggling farmers were ignored. This created an opening for the growing popularity of the Populist Party, who were sympathetic to the agricultural sector of the state. The Republicans also sought to exploit the political momentum to overturn the Democrats who had ruled the legislature from 1876-1894. The Republicans and Populists formed an uneasy alliance as the Fusionist Party in order to gain votes and beat the Democrats. In 1896 they sealed their bid for power, took over the legislature and elected Governor Daniel Russell, the first Republican Governor since Reconstruction.2 This series of events set the stage for an election season two years later filled with white supremacist patriarchal rhetoric, violence, a massacre, and an the Wilmington coup.
The Cartoons of Norman Ethre Jennett & The North Carolina Election of 1898 By Rachel Marie-Crane Williams, Ph.D.
Editor for The News and Observer
State leader for The Democrat Party
hat started as a casual meeting between Furnifold Simmons, Charles Aycock, and Josephus Daniels to discuss political strategy at the Chatawka Hotel in Newbern, North Carolina in March of 1898 would have dire consequences for decades to come.3 Little did they know that by early November there would be fire, political turmoil, and bloodshed in the streets of Wilmington.
Charles B. Aycock
immons, Aycock, and Daniels used their influence, oratorial skills, and the press to create a rape scare, demonize and humiliate black men and women, spread a violent white supremacist ideology, and reclaim the North Carolina Legislature for the Democratic Party.4 Josephus Daniels, the editor of The News and Observer, a newspaper with a large circulation in eastern North Carolina, played a pivotal role in the politics of 1898. His paper combined racist rhetoric with exaggerated stories and images to play up a fear of â€œNegro Dominationâ€? with the hope of uniting whites across class and ethnic lines against African Americans.
Leading orator for The Democratic Party
ls us Danie h p e s o J aign, man the camp oung artist, Nor e c n a v d oa ry), a of a y uckleber nnett e talents H h t n o n s o p 7 Je Sam drew ett, (aka ..5 In 189 ork to n .C n e N J , e y r t h n Et ou ew Y Wayne C ved to N of Art. native of arolina and mo chool hC Chase S . r his M left Nort m a i ill to ask fo s for W y l e u h J t t n a i age nett study te to Jen ign. Jennettâ€™s im cal o r w s l e i a ti Dan 98 camp constructed poli 8 1 e h t r help in eality fo bserver r O l a d i c n a o s s t The New d to some exten n a g meanin readers.
etween August and early November of 1898 Jennett produced over 75 single panel editorial cartoons for Daniels. His cartoons lampooned politicians and satirized local and regional events. What made Jennettâ€™s cartoons significant was not his drawing ability and wit, but rather the way they provided a visual element to the prevailing propaganda. Ultimately they helped the Democrats to gain a political stranglehold on the state that would evolve in various directions and last until 2010 when Republicans gained control of both houses for the first time since 1898.
ennett’s cartoons supported four themes in the Democrats’ campaign rhetoric of 1898. 1) He reinforced traditional Southern concepts of manhood and the icon of the honest white man; 2) propagated stereotypes of African Americans through images of Zip Coon, savage beasts, and parasitic vampires; 3) questioned the public safety of white women, and subsequently raised the threat of miscegenation and rape; and 4) discounted the masculinity and autonomy of men who were not Democrats. These themes intermingled and informed each other.
he “Honest White Man” and Zip Coon were depicted multiple times by Jennett. (Zip Coon was a crude stereotype of a discontented and unintelligent urban black man). For example, in one cartoon from November 1, 1898 just days before the election, a Zip Coon figure stands next to a black flag labeled “Negro Rule”. It is crossed with a white flag in a configuration reminiscent of the Confederate flag or an “X”, a reminder of illiteracy . Gracefully standing on the opposite side of the page is a distinguished Caucasian man dressed in white from head to toe. He has a beard and cane to denote that he is experienced and dignified, perhaps a Southern planter. He looks a great deal like Robert E. Lee, a revered hero in South. Beneath each flag are placards stating the outcomes of white and “Negro” rule. If the white man prevails the cartoon promises good government, prosperity, peace, and protection to white women. According to Jennett’s image, if people vote for “Negro rule” they can expect scandals, incompetency, corruption and white women to be insulted. The Zip Coon figure seems oblivious as he confronts the viewer with a vacant frontal gaze and a smile. His diamond tie tack sparkles and he hides his hands in his pockets. In contrast, the genteel white man has removed his gloves and lovingly caresses the flag. He looks with downcast eyes humbly at the ballot box.
onstructions of manhood were an essential part of the Democrats’ campaign. Many Democrats were proponents of “Anglo-Saxonism” and believed that men in the South had borne the “White man’s burden.” White men were not simply superior but “The Best Men.” The leading men of the Democratic party were influenced by authors such as Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Dixon Jr., a North Carolinian closely aligned with Simmons, Aycock, and Daniels.6 Black office holders, like Lee Person were depicted as incompetent buffoons or worse yet, in the case of Jim Young, as predators, or children dressed as soldiers. Jennett always positioned black office holders as morally, physically, or intellectually inferior.
n a cartoon from August 30, 1898 Jennett drew the large fisted hand of the “Honest White Man” gripping a ballot and smacking a Zip Coon figure on the nose. It is a gesture of harmless scolding filled with comedy denoted by the stars and small flying hat that makes the Zip Coon figure seem more like nuisance than a true threat.
ome cartoons drawn by Jennett closely mimic the work of other cartoonists like Charles Lewis Bartholomew, who, just months before, during the Spanish-American War, depicted people with darker skin as simpleminded, closer to animals than humans, childlike, and incapable of self-governance. Jennett drew generalized stereotypes of black men and gave them expressions of childish wonder, scaled them to appear much smaller than their white counterparts, and drew them as devils, vampires, predators and Zip Coon figures. “Take up the white man’s burden-Send forth the best you breed --Go bind your sons in exile to serve your captives’ needs to wait in heavy harness on fluttered folk and wild --your new caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and Half-Child...” Rudyard Kipling
artoons in which Young is depicted offer an illustration of how the Democrats constructed what Glenda Gilmore terms “Racialized manhood.”7 Jim Young’s white father enslaved his black mother. Young was very active in North Carolina politics in the late 1800s and became the target of several attacks by Democrats. Governor Russell appointed him to the board of directors for the institutions in the state that served people who had visual and hearing impairments. Young later resigned from this position to lead the first Spanish American War regiment in North Carolina comprised of black soldiers and directed by black officers .
ennett depicts Young in two images “inspecting” the White Blind Institution. In one image he is in the quarters of a white woman at the school. His head is much larger than hers. His gaze is direct. In the back ground there is a bed and the door is closed. She seems alone and defenseless. Jennett uses a string of dark shadows, including his trademark crescent shadow cleverly attached to his name, to draw our attention to the bed. Jennett depicts Young as a potential predator; he infers that he is using his position only to be close to vulnerable white women.
n another image from September young wears a military uniform and whispers, “Do this, Do That” into the ear of Governor Daniels. Young is portrayed as being influential over the governor, yet small enough to fit in his pocket. In this image Jennett has juxtaposed a miniature Young with Russell who wears a coat patterned with small heads in blackface and a button that says, “Negro Rule.”
ennett’s treatment of Young in his cartoons offers examples of the fluidity of the stereotypes that Jennett employs. In August of 1898 Jennett depicts Young as powerful and lascivious. In September, he is a small child-like figure holding the hand of Hal W. Ayer, the leader of the Populist party. Young was an officer within the third North Carolina Volunteer Regimen. Jennett depicts young as a figure who would never be capable of going to war without the leadership or bravery of white men. According to Glenda Gilmore (1996),
In Jennett’s cartoons black
The Democrats tailored the international language of racialized manhood to fit situations in their own backyards. Whites infantilized the soldiers on one hand and portrayed them as animals on the other. To invoke the trope of the African American as evolutionary child, whites argued that dressing up black men in uniforms only served to point up the absurdity of their manly posturing, much like dressing up children in cowboy costumes. Suddenly the soldiers were not men but Russell’s “pets”. (81)
men and all women fall beneath the “natural” dominion of honest white men. Black men are savage or child-like and white women are vulnerable subjects to be protected. Democrats wanted North Carolinians to believe that black men only wanted to gain social equality so that they could get closer to white women. Their campaign was explicitly designed to disenfranchise black men, and implicitly intended to make white women fearful to enter into the public sphere. Many white women participated in the white supremacy campaign; they attended red shirt rallies dressed from head to toe in virginal white standing literally and figuratively behind their husbands. Black women like Sarah Dudley Pettey were equally active and vociferous in the African American community.8 The Democratic party promulgated stories designed to make white people fearful of black women; there were accounts in newspapers of black women “bumping” white women on sidewalks, etc., but images of black women did not appear in Jennett’s cartoons.
“You know I never did like negroes anyway... They always gave me the horrors ...I can’t get over that little kink in his hair, his big nostrils and full lips, and when he looks at me it makes my flesh creep.” -Thomas Dixon Jr. “The Leopard’s Spots”
ennett often drew stereotypes of African American men. Some were supposed to be humorous like Zip Coon, others, such as the vampire he drew on September 27, 1898 were meant to be threatening. He often drew grotesque images of African American men inspired by blackface minstrelsy. 1898 was the height of the “Coon Song” craze. Nearly 100 years later James Dorman, a scholar analyzed the lyrics of over 100 of the most popular coon songs. He states, “Blacks began to appear as not only ignorant and indolent but also devoid of honesty and personal honor, given to drunkeness and gambling, utterly without ambition, sensuous, li-bidinous, even lascivious.” (7)10 In popular blackface minstrel shows, “coons” often tried and failed to imitate the actions and gestures of genteel whites. Jennett often drew Zip Coon dressed as a “dandy.” Barbara Webb writes, “The black dandy signified a rebellion not only against a prescribed class station... but also against a prescribed position in the racial order.”11 Jennett, like other artists of the day who published cartoons in Puck, Life, The Daily Graphic, New York World, and Judge used humourous static signifiers like large lips and bulging eyes in order to nullify the personhood of African Americans.
Pictured above is a winged vampire whose tail is coming out of the ballot box with
claws that reach for white men and women who are running to the edge of the frame with no place to escape. This image is meant to represent all black men; it equates black men with not only supernatural demons but also anthropomorphic beasts hungry to dominate the bodies of whites. These associations were inspired by Furnifold Simmons, the head of the N.C. Democratic Party. According to Glenda Gilmore, “Simmons chose as the central metaphorical figure of the campaign the incubus-- a winged demon that has sexual intercourse with women while they sleep. The Democrats charged that while white men slumbered, the incubus of black power visited their beds.”12
Simmon’s conflation of Negro rule with a black male demon whose sole desire is to have sex with vulnerable white women was further fueled by Jennett’s images, coupled with stories of assault and rape published by The News and Observer.
There is a black vampire hovering over our beloved old North Carolina!!!
Ms. Rebecca Strowd of Kinston, N.C. at a Red Shirt Rally speaking for the Women’s League in October of 1898.
he image of the vampire was an interesting choice for Democrats. Vampires are dark and evil figures in popular culture — sexual fiends and parasitic killers. Perhaps the Democrats were influenced by Bram Stoker’s Dracula which was published in 1897. Dracula and other supernatural Gothic tales were popular near the turn of the century when “fantasies of reverse colonization are particularly prevalent.” Stephen Arata defines reverse colonization: “...the colonizer finds himself in the position of the colonized, the exploiter becomes exploited, the victimizer victimized. Such fears are linked to a perceived decline - racial, moral, spiritual - which makes the nation vulnerable to attack from more vigorous, “primitive” peoples”14 Depicting African American men as vampires, demons, and incubi is clearly an attempt to express white supremacists fear of colonization and miscegenation. A fear of black men contaminating the bodies of white women, feeding on their flesh, in order to consume the white race as a whole and eventually dominate the political, social, and sexual landscape.
hite women were the linchpin for the Democratic party; their safety provided an issue to hold white men of different classes together. On more than one occasion. Jennett depicted white women as prisoners of “Negro rule”. He drew a white woman, dressed very much like Miss Columbia, a popular symbol in the 1800s, in at least four of his cartoons. He named her “The Goddess of Democracy.” In a cartoon from November 3, 1898 she represents North Carolina. The state’s name is written on her hair. He frequently labeled figures in his work by writing their names directly on the images. She is chained to a large black ball that says “Negro Rule.” Above it is the word, “Remember!” Perhaps asking Democratic male voters to remember North Carolina and to also remember the white women of North Carolina when they vote. Below the image it says, “On the 8th of November these shackles will be broken.” Ironically, Jennett was fond of images equating “Negro rule” with shackles.15 His cartoons suggest that Blacks in North Carolina enslaved the state, particularly the white women. The stars and stripes on her dress imply that it is the honest white man’s patriotic duty to save North Carolina. In this image, the fate of North Carolina is the fate of the rest of the United States. Her hands are clearly held from reaching the edge of the striped bodice that slips slightly off her shoulder or from wiping away her tears. She is held to the spot visually by a black scratchy shadow and the oversize black ball of Negro Rule that dominates the image as a whole.
n September 28, 1898 Jennett drew a variation; the crowd is more menacing and the men carry a banner that says, “white supremacy.” The stoic Goddess of Democracy’s laurel wreath says, “protection to white women”. Perched on her hip like a babe is a cornucopia filled with vegetables. It says, “peace” and “prosperity.” The caption at the bottom says, “the Goddess of Democrasy.” It is unclear why Jennett misspelled Democracy.
he Goddess of Democracy first appeared in Jennett’s cartoons on September 16, 1898. She holds out a wreath that says “Welcome” to a large crowd of men who appear to be working class laborers and farmers. They have the words “Honest Populist” and “Honest Republican written across their bodies. The Goddess of Democracy waves a laurel wreath, her movement is signified in a classic cartoon way with emanata. The caption notes that she welcomes home all honest white men.
y October The Goddess of Democracy is seen trapped “Behind the Bars”of Negro Rule. Jennett transformed his Goddess to mirror the rhetoric Democrats used to position white women in their bid for political power. She changed from a well dressed siren signaling a homecoming for all Honest Men in early September, to a strong stoic matron without any frills, to a woman on her knees behind bars, and finally in November to a helpless captive held fast by a large ball and chain.
ot only did he symbolize white women via the Goddess of Democracy, he also drew specific situations where they were “vulnerable.” For example, he drew white women in front of a Justice of the Peace (September 18,1898) and an African American Deputy Clerk of Court (September 8, 1898). Implying that these white women might be forced to compromise their virtue in order to be treated fairly. One of Jennett’s cartoons depicts the “dangers” that white women faced in North Carolina when calling for their mail (October 28,1898). In it he illustrates a white upper class woman in line at the post office surrounded by a group of gregarious AfricanAmerican men. One has his hand on her back. She looks alarmed and unsure. She concentrates her gaze past the edge of the picture as if looking for help. Meanwhile it is clear that the four black men are pushing her to the center of their small circle. The black men, drawn as grotesque caricatures, with large rubbery looking lips are almost leering at her. The black men in Jennett’s cartoon are drawn as though they are in black face with white hands. Spreading from beneath the postmaster’s office is a black shadow that slowly seeps from beneath the postmaster. In this image the post master is framed like an icon in the center of the page. Jennett leads the eye of the viewer with the hand of the woman and the diagonal floor boards directly to the postmaster. From the center of the composition, he looks directly at the viewer, impervious to the situation that is unfolding in front of him. The context and figures are generic, it could be any rural post office. The hands in the center of the composition are a key part of this image. Jennet has drawn the right hand of a smiling black man on the small of the white woman’s back. Perhaps he made their hands white to avoid being too shocking. For most black men just touching a white woman in public was dangerous. Post masters were the most visible federal employees. Often in rural areas postmasters operated out of their homes or local stores. George White, of the second district in North Carolina, also known as the “Black Second,” appointed 28 black postmasters in 1897. He was an ally of Republican William McKinley, who was committed to racial justice. By October of 1897 McKinley had appointed 179 African Americans to various posts. By 1898 North Carolina had more black postmasters than any other state in the Union.15 Thus Jennett’s cartoon lampoons black men, presents a dangerous situation for white women, and illustrates the negative consequences of appointing black men to positions of public power.
ennett depicted white women as vulnerable; black men as vampiric beasts, ignorant dandies, picaninnies or children; and white democrats as honest and “The best man”. He drew white Populists, Republicans and Fusionists in ways that openly challenged their masculinity, political motives, and honesty. Cyrus Thompson, A.E. Holton, and Governor Russell were all drawn by Jennett in ways that disassociated them with “honest white men” and aligned them with “Negro Rule”. Republicans and Populists who sought an interracial coalition jeopardized the traditional social hierarchy of white patriarchy espoused by the Democrats. On September 4, 1898 Jennett drew A.E. Holton, the Chairman of the Republican party and Cyrus Thompson, the chairman of the People’s Party (Populists) snuggled together on a park bench as a newly married couple on their honeymoon. The shadows beneath the bench look like small black bats. Holton’s hat has a small flag with a dollar sign on the end. Both men look serious in spite of Holton’s playful gesture and the bird singing comically on the edge of the bench. Jennett inferred that their political union compromised their masculinity, loyalty, gender, and sexuality.
n the 13th of September, 1898 Jennett drew Thompson as a Hyena robbing the grave of Octavius Coke, a former Secretary of State. This was published after Thompson defended his use of funds and claimed that former Secretaries of State, including Coke and Saunders, had not kept any records with which to compare his written records. 16 It is significant that Jennett chose this particular beast to represent Thompson. Hyenas were associated with demons because they were nocturnal and sometimes robbed graves for food. In addition, people at the turn of the century thought hyenas were sexually perverse hermaphodites.17
ennett also drew Governor Daniel Russell frequently; he was an easy man to caricature. He had an ample figure and large bulging eyes. Sometimes Jennett drew him as an ass, once as a fat black chicken, and more than once in a jacket covered with a pattern of heads in blackface. Josephus Daniels, in his writing, implied that Russell was corrupt and very sympathetic to African Americans. The images of Russell in the plaid jacket equate him squarely with Zip Coon. Perhaps Jennett wants viewers to read the jacket as a symbol of political miscegenation. According to Kantrowitz (2000), white men like Daniels who opposed the Democrats and supported an interracial political coalition posed a radical threat to the Post- Reconstruction order of the South; a place where white men dominated all women, children and black men. To act as though black men were social equals threatened the balance of power for white men. 18 Prior to this white men operated in what Dana Nelson calls a â€œfraternal homogenous space.â€?19 To accept black men as social equals was to break from this fraternity of white manhood.
n the end, the Democratic fraternity of white manhood swept the elections on November 8th, 1898. They overcame the Fusionists through violence, threats, demonization, fear, and caricature. 20 In spite of this history, and the rumors of violence and mayhem that were seeded by white supremacists, the day of the elections passed without any deaths.21
ennett and the team of democrats including Josephus Daniels had achieved a victory that would set the wheels in motion for an aftermath of bloodshed and violence.
We beat â€˜em son!
n Wilmington, white democrats had prepared for violence on election day. In spite of the outcome, there was still a feeling that total victory included the complete eradication of the influence of black Republicans and white Populists in the affairs of the city.
We, the undersigned citizens of the City of Wilmington and he calculated County of massacre and subsequent New Hanover, disenfranchisement started do hereby declare on November 9th at 11 that we will no am, in the New Hanover longer be ruled, County Court House with and will never a meeting at which Alfred again be ruled by Moore Waddell spoke. men of Waddell was a former confedAfrican origin. erate veteran, newspaper man, and congressman. He was defeated in his congressional bid for re-election in 1878 by Daniel Russell.
addell read from the “White Declaration of Independence” at a performance calculated to foment white men. Twenty-five white men, led by Waddell, were appointed in the meeting to implement a plan to carry out the resolutions outlined in the “White Declaration of Independence.”
You must use your influence to make your people carry out these resolutions. You have until 7:30 am tomorrow!!
hat evening, as the air cooled, thirty-two of the city’s most prominent black leaders were summoned to meet with Waddell’s committee at the Seaboard Air Line Railroad on Front Street. The demands of the white men centered around the ideas of white domination and the banishment of Alex Manly as outlined in the document.23 Manly was the editor of The Daily Record, an African American Newspaper. He was targeted for an editorial that he published in August of 1898. The black men, known as The Committee of Colored Citizens included notable business men, community leaders and politicians such as Armond Scott, Dr. T.R. Mask, James Pearson, and John Harriss Howe. The men bravely met with Waddell’s committee and tried to reason with them in Colonel, we are not order to stave off the responsible for this. We have no authority violence that was brewing across the city. in this matter!!!
he Committee of Colored Citizens crafted a response to Waddellâ€™s committee in the safe haven of a barbershop belonging to David Jacobs. They agreed that Armond Scott and other members of the Committee of Colored Citizens would deliver the letter to Waddellâ€™s house the following morning. As the sun rose, the black men veered away from this course and delivered the letter to the local post office instead because they were fearful of the armed white men that were starting to congregate on street corners. By 8:15 am on November 10th, Waddell had gathered a crowd of men together at the Wilmington Light Infantry. They set off to burn Love and Charity Hall. Waddell hoped this display of white supremacy, violence and power was enough to quench the blood thirsty white men who had participated. After they burned the building they marched back to the armory and Waddell addressed the men.
Now let us go quietly to our homes and about our business and obey the laws, unless we are forced to defend ourselves otherwise.
iolence and fear ruled the streets of Wilmington in the days that followed. White rage could not be quelled with reason any longer.
he Wilmington massacre began on November 10th after Waddellâ€™s march, with a small bout of gunfire between a few black and white men on the corner of North 4th and Harnett. The first person injured was a white man named William Mayo; he was shot in the arm. It is still not clear who fired the first shot.
s the violence amplified, the telegraph wires across the state grew hot with offers to help quell the violence from white men across the south. The Governorâ€™s office notified troops across the Eastern Coastal Plain to be prepared to move to Wilmington.
Itâ€™s us or them boys... us or them!!!!!
nce the violence broke out it was unstoppable. Blacks were terrorized by the armed white men, the Wilmington Light Infantry, Rough Riders, and Red Shirts. Some black men fought back; but they were no match for the tide of white fear and rage.
hile the death toll from the Wilmington massacre remains unconfirmed, it was rumored that the mouth of the Cape Fear River was choked with bodies. 24 The swamps around Wilmington sheltered families of frightened African Americans for at least two days. They hid in the cold November drizzle waiting for the violence to ebb. Many black families left Wilmington after 1898 never to return. The massacre ended and the men who were part of the driving force of the violence enacted a governmental coup. They forced the mayor, Silas P. Wright, the entire board of aldermen, and all of the city officials to resign. Their vacant positions were promptly filled by Democrats. The new mayor was Waddell. In addition to this, a number of Republicans were rounded up, jailed and then banished from Wilmington by train the next day. 25
aniels, Aycock, Simmons and Jennett could never have predicted the impact their campaign would have on the old “Tar Heel” state. The ghosts they raised of miscegenation, black violence, and the specter of noble white masculinity, performed through the protection of white women, and the oppression of black men, have been resurrected over and over in the history of the state. Jennett’s cartoons have remained as a reminder of these ideas and their power.
ennett was hailed by Democratic leaders as, “One of the powers that brought about the revolution.”26 The role he played cannot be divorced from the larger cultural context of the turn of the century. Whites all over the South were engaging in political, cultural, economic, and social campaigns against African Americans. Only 21 years of age when the campaign of 1898 was waged, Jennett was heavily influenced by Josephus Daniels, a powerful, educated, well connected and savvy man. Jennett’s friendship, working relationship, and correspondence with Daniels continued for many decades.
ennett went on to become a successful illustrator in New York. Racist images cropped up in his drawings after 1900 but became less frequent over time.27 His cartoons are a reminder of the ugliness of the political history of North Carolina at the turn of the century and the power that cartoons can have in such campaigns. Like Charles Aycock, Josephus Daniels, and Furnifold Simmons, Jennett’s legacy is intertwined with the lynching of an undetermined number of African Americans and the beginning of the Jim Crow era in North Carolina.