Wilmington's Lie (Winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize): The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy

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$28.00  $26.04
Atlantic Monthly Press
Publish Date
6.2 X 9.2 X 1.6 inches | 1.5 pounds

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About the Author

DAVID ZUCCHINO is a contributing writer for The New York Times. He has covered wars and civil conflicts in more than three dozen countries. Zucchino was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his dispatches from apartheid South Africa and is a four-time Pulitzer Prize finalist for his reporting from Iraq, Lebanon, Africa and inner-city Philadelphia. He is the author of Thunder Run and Myth of the Welfare Queen.

Praise for Wilmington's Lie:

"A judicious and riveting new history...The publication of a book like Zucchino's, [is] a sign that, however late and reluctantly, America is becoming conscious of the racial violence that insured white supremacy after Reconstruction."--New Yorker

"Brilliant...Zucchino, a contributing writer for the New York Times, does not overwrite the scenes. His moral judgement stands at a distance. He simply describes what happened and the lies told to justify it all...The details contained in the last part of the book are heart-wrenching. With economy and a cinematic touch, Zucchino recounts the brutal assault on black Wilmington."--New York Times

"In Wilmington's Lie, David Zucchino, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has covered conflicts around the world, punctures the myths surrounding the insurrection and provides a dynamic and detailed account of the lives of perpetrators and victims...Deeply researched and profoundly relevant, Wilmington's Lie explains how [the coup] happened and suggests how much work remains to be done to come to terms with what took place."--Washington Post

"This is an amazing story."--Dave Davies, NPR's Fresh Air

"David Zucchino offers a gripping account of one of the most disturbing, though virtually unknown, political events in American history...Thanks to Mr. Zucchino's unflinching account, we now have the full, appalling story. As befits a serious journalist, he avoids polemics and lets events speak for themselves. Wilmington's Lie joins a growing shelf of works that unpeel the brutal realities of the post-Civil War South...it is books such as these, not least Wilmington's Lie, that have redeemed the truth of post-Civil War history from the tenacious mythology of racism."--Wall Street Journal

"In his new book, the Pulitzer prize-winning journalist David Zucchino illuminates a harrowing historical incident, the Wilmington coup of 1898, that is long forgotten by most. In doing so, he does a lot to explain our own interesting times... In his riveting book, Zucchino retells one horrifying attempt to re-establish the "rightful place" of former slaves: starkly isolated, with scant hope of parity."--Guardian

"Wilmington's Lie shows how effectively people in power can distort history. And yet it also proves that the past isn't easily erased. We still don't know how many black people died in Wilmington, and we also don't know many of their names. But the truth--much of it--has finally come out."--Charlotte Observer

"Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Zucchino cuts through a century of propaganda, myth, and big white lies to unmask the stunning history of the Wilmington coup, its origins in the political climate of the era, and its far-reaching implications for North Carolina and the rest of the resurgent Confederacy in the decades that followed."--New York Journal of Books

"The dumbfounding, true story in David Zucchino's Wilmington's Lie [is] so lacerating, so appalling you often can't believe what you're reading. I hope this powerful book helps preserve this bad memory for a long time... Zucchino is your ideal guide. The Pulitzer Prize-winner and former Inquirer staffer is a tireless, resourceful reporter, an incisive social analyst, and a direct, often elegant writer."--Philadelphia Inquirer

"Brilliant...Zucchino reports his way through the action and the personal stories with great care, culminating in the central story that has been covered up over the last century: the stunning overthrow of the legitimately elected Wilmington city government...David Zucchino dedicates Wilmington's Lie "to the dead and banished, known and unknown." Through this act of documenting, he brings truth to the lie."--Southern Review of Books

"Wilmington's Lie is a riveting and mesmerizing page turner, with lessons about racial violence that echo loudly today."--BookPage

"Usually, when we read history, we at least have a cursory knowledge of the subject at hand. Sometimes, however, a book comes along that just surprises. How did we not know about this before? we ask ourselves. Wilmington's Lie is such a book...We did not have to wait long for the first great history book of the new decade." --Chris Schluep, Amazon "Best of January" Selection

"Pierces layers of myth and invented history . . . Wilmington's Lie reconstructs the only violent overthrow of an elected government in U.S. history, tying the white supremacist bloodshed to political goals that are still relevant today."--Shelf Awareness

"Extremely compelling and convincing...Even astute readers of history and civil rights will be alarmed by this story, which is why it should be read. For fans of American history, politics, and civil rights."--Library Journal

"Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Zucchino delivers a searing chronicle of the November 1898 white supremacist uprising in Wilmington, N.C., that overthrew the municipal government...Drawing on a wealth of primary sources, Zucchino paints a disturbing portrait of the massacre and how it was covered up by being described as a "race riot" sparked by African-Americans. This masterful account reveals a shameful chapter in American history."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Zucchino shines his reporter's spotlight on what he aptly calls a murderous coup as well as exploring its background and longterm consequences...The result is both a page-turner and a sobering reminder of democracy's fragility."--Booklist

"A searing and still-relevant tale of racial injustice at the turn of the 20th century... A book that does history a service by uncovering a shameful episode, one that resonates strongly today."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"One of the great journalists of our time has placed his discerning eye on the steaming cauldron of our shared racial history. The result is this extraordinary book written with the superb quality and journalistic excellence that is Zucchino's trademark." --James McBride, National Book Award-winning author of The Good Lord Bird

"David Zucchino is one of the finest foreign correspondents I have ever worked with in 40 years of journalism. Now imagine you take someone with David's reporting skills and transport him back in history to 1898 and Wilmington, North Carolina. And you tell him to tell us the story of the only violent overthrow of an elected government in American history. It was perpetrated by white supremacists seeking to reverse the remarkable advances in racial pluralism in Wilmington of that day--a positive example that was primed to spread throughout the state, and beyond. What you end up with is a gripping, cannot-put-down book that is both history and a distant mirror on just how much can go wrong in this great country of ours when populist politicians play the race card without restraint."--Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times columnist

"A staggeringly great book, both thrilling and tragic, shining light on a dark passage of American history. --Tim Weiner, National Book Award-winning author of Legacy of Ashes

"Wilmington's Lie is riveting and meticulously reported and powerfully written. It is also scalding and revelatory. As David Zucchino shows with relentless drama, the end of the Civil War was not the end of slavery but the beginning of a period more terrifying, the unchecked rise of white supremacy that culminated in a day of unparalleled blood in a North Carolina coastal town. It is a forgotten chapter in American history. Zucchino has now made it an unforgettable one." --Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights

Praise for David Zucchino:

"Even a very short, victorious shooting war against a disorganized, dispirited, vastly outnumbered and underequipped enemy is hell. That is the central message that Los Angeles Times correspondent Zucchino brings home startlingly well in this riveting account of the American military's lightning capture of Baghdad in April 2003...[A] high-quality example of in-depth and evocative war reporting."--Publishers Weekly, on Thunder Run

"Zucchino does not obscure the ugliness--including welfare recipients who embrace dependence--that surrounds them, but what stands out is the resilience of these women in the face of events that would be insurmountable tragedies for most middle- and upper-class Americans. It is unlikely this book will engender new and widespread respect for welfare mothers, for the 'welfare queen' myth draws its strength from what people want to believe, not misperceptions of reality. But by setting aside presuppositions and moral judgments to simply describe what he finds, Zucchino offers a substantive image of life on welfare."--Kirkus Reviews, on Myth of the Welfare Queen