RALEIGH — The state of North Carolina is moving away from using the phrase “race riot” to describe the violent overthrow of the Wilmington government in 1898 and is instead using the word “coup” on the highway historical marker that will commemorate the dark event.
The heading on the marker reads “Wilmington Coup,” but the originally approved text referred to a “race riot,” which eventually was deleted.
“You don’t call it that anymore because the African Americans weren’t rioting,” said Ansley Herring Wegner, administrator of the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program, said Thursday. “They were being massacred.”
In 1898, white Democrats violently overthrew the fusion government of legitimately elected blacks and white Republicans in Wilmington. The Democrats burned and killed their way to power in what’s viewed as a flashpoint for the Jim Crow era of segregation and the only successful coup d’etat in American history.
The marker, which was dedicated Friday, stands outside the Wilmington Light Infantry building, where the mob of white supremacists gathered before they marched to The Daily Record, the African American newspaper, and burned it to the ground. Alfred Moore Waddell, who led the march, took over as mayor.
The ceremony included a moment of silence for those killed in the coup, the StarNews of Wilmington reported. The names of the 10 people to have been killed were read aloud, each accompanied by the chiming of bells.
The highway marker for the editor of the paper, Alex Manly, includes the phrase “race riot,” but it was dedicated 25 years ago.
Meanwhile in Chapel Hill, a temporary logo has been placed over one of the plaques at the University of North Carolina football stadium that’s dedicated to a man who was a coup leader. A newspaper report at the time said Kenan Sr. was in charge of the machine gun used during the coup. News outlets report that photos this week show the logo covering Kenan’s name.
The original text for the 1898 marker, approved in December 2017, included Waddell’s name and made other references that the public found offensive, Wegner said. The committee of historians that approves the language for markers went back to work and approved new text in the spring of 2018, Wegner said.
One of the people unhappy with the original text was Deborah Dicks Maxwell, president of the New Hanover County branch of the NAACP. She was especially upset that the original language said the “violence left up to 60 blacks dead” because it’s unclear how many black people died.
“We’ll never know how many people died,” she said. “Black lives didn’t matter at that time in terms of reporting or documentation.”
Maxwell hopes the marker will help “the world to understand that it wasn’t a riot,” she said.
“A lot of things that happen to African Americans are hidden, swept under a rug,” she said. “We need to reveal all parts of our history as a country.”
HIGH POINT — The Guilford County Association of Educators on Friday backed Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of bills that increase teacher pay. Instead, the organization is demanding the state give raises that increase pay faster and more equitably.
“We thought it was a slap in the face and a slap in the face should be rejected,” said Todd Warren, the association’s president.
The group also announced plans to picket outside some Guilford County Schools next week. Educators are looking to highlight what they say is the legislature’s failure to meet demands they laid out in the spring and to pass a budget.
The bills that Cooper vetoed included teacher raises of 3.9% over two years, including increases for longevity. The bills also included a 2% raise for non-instructional staff.
On Friday, Republican leaders were quick to denounce Cooper’s actions.
“His refusal to raise teacher pay in favor of playing political games on separate issues is causing real harm to educators’ families,” N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore said in a news release.
Senate leader Phil Berger of Eden said in a news release that Cooper “uses teachers as pawns, blocking their pay increase then trying to convince them it’s all the Republicans fault.”
Warren sees it differently.
He believes the Democratic governor and state lawmakers are bound to approve a raise for school employees this year, given the political environment and recent increases for other state employees.
By vetoing a smaller raise, he thought Cooper could help put pressure on lawmakers to come up with a bigger one.
Cooper alluded to that in a news conference Friday, saying the state shouldn’t accept the raises approved last week by the GOP-controlled legislature, not “when we have an opportunity to do more.”
Warren said that the Guilford County Association of Educators is demanding a 5 percent raise for school employees in the first year of the budget. They would then come back and negotiate for an additional smaller raise to cover cost-of-living increases in the second year.
That, he explained, is very different than the 3.9 percent raise over two years that Cooper vetoed. It’s not just that it’s smaller, but a portion of it wouldn’t kick in until the second year.
Warren also said the vetoed raises didn’t meet other requirements, such as a $15 minimum wage for all employees, including cafeteria workers and bus drivers.
“You are talking about bus drivers and custodians that will see maybe $17 more in their check in Senate Bill 354 that was put before the governor,” he said.
Warren spoke to the media at a news conference Friday afternoon at Ferndale Middle School in High Point, along with two local lawmakers lending their support: state Sens. Gladys Robinson and Michael Garrett, both Democrats.
GREENSBORO — The final piece of land is in place for the Downtown Greenway and construction should begin next year on the last phase of the 4-mile walking and biking trail around downtown.
The city on Friday closed an $8.5 million deal with Norfolk Southern to convert an inactive railway corridor into the western leg of the Downtown Greenway. The deal also allows the city to build a trail that branches off of the greenway on its northwest corner and extends from West Smith Street northwest to Markland Drive near the Target shopping center on Lawndale Drive.
The western phase of the Downtown Greenway extends from Spring Garden Street to West Smith Street.
In all, the right of way deal includes 3.1 miles that will allow the greenway to link to the existing A&Y Greenway that extends 9 miles to Summerfield and beyond, Greensboro City Manager David Parrish said.
“This is a significant day for us,” Parrish said. “It’s something we’ve been pursuing for 11 years.”
Action Greensboro, a community development group, has been working with the city to oversee the construction and acquisition of the land in four phases. Parrish said Friday’s deal was completed with money from city bond funds, $1.5 million from Action Greensboro and $4.4 million from the state of North Carolina.
“This section is particularly unique with the College Branch Stream running alongside what will become the greenway path,” said Dabney Sanders, the Downtown Greenway project manager for Action Greensboro. Sanders said in a news release, “Stream restoration work, the addition of site furnishings, and public art will make this a beautiful part of the greenway to travel through, as well as a destination.”
“This is truly exciting news as we can now close the gap and complete the Downtown Greenway,” Mayor Nancy Vaughan said in a news release. “To see this project come to fruition is a testament to everyone who has worked so hard on this project. The Downtown Greenway will serve generations of Greensboro residents.”
In all, the Downtown Greenway will cost roughly $43 million, the city said in a news release, which includes about $13 million in private donations and $30 million in public money from both local bonds and state and federal funding. Earlier this year, the VF Foundation and VF Leaders announced a legacy gift of $1.5 million to Action Greensboro to support the continued development of the Downtown Greenway and this funding will help support this acquisition, according to the city.
Construction of the Downtown Greenway is also progressing along Murrow Boulevard. The eastern section of the greenway will run alongside Murrow Boulevard from East Gate City Boulevard to Fisher Avenue and North Greene Street where it will connect with the current open section. Work is underway on new traffic signals and a new traffic pattern at Murrow and Gate City boulevards, and construction is expected to be complete in October 2020.
In 2001, the Greensboro Center City Master Plan identified the Downtown Greenway as one of three major projects, including Center City Park and the Greensboro Grasshoppers downtown baseball park. The Downtown Greenway was then included in the city’s 2006 Bicycle, Pedestrian and Greenway/Trails Master Plan, that included the greenway as the hub of an envisioned 400 miles of Greensboro trails and greenways.
It was also selected as the city’s signature project for Greensboro’s 2008 bicentennial, and in 2010, the greenway was named the top priority of the Greensboro Downtown Economic Development Strategy.
CHARLOTTE — Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who leads a global movement of school-skipping youth demanding action on climate change, brought her blunt message to Charlotte on Friday.
Thunberg, 16, spoke at a student-led “climate strike” Friday outside the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, turning what has been a weekly vigil by a Charlotte teen into an exuberant gathering of more than 1,000.
Inspired by Thunberg, Myers Park High student Mary Ellis Stevens, 14, has held her own calls to action outside the government center every week since February. On Friday they both gave voice to a generation that they say will live with climate change’s impacts.
Before her renown, Thunberg was a 15-year-old school girl sitting outside Sweden’s parliament to sway lawmakers. By this year she had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and in September delivered a stern rebuke to world leaders at the United Nations: “How dare you?” she demanded.
In Charlotte, a crowd began gathering outside the government center Friday well in advance of the event’s noon start, growing to what police estimated to be up to 1,200 people by 1 p.m.
“When I started striking I was convinced I was going to be alone forever, so this is really special,” Mary Ellis told the crowd. “When I became lonely, I imagined the streets filled with strikers — and look at what we have today.”
She called inaction on climate change a “betrayal” of younger generations. She asked: “How will we look our grandchildren in the eyes?”
“For well over a year young people have been striking from school every Friday, demanding our leaders take responsibility and to unite behind the science,” she said.
“The people in power have not yet done that. They continue to ignore us and the current, best-available science. So we have no choice but to go on as long as it takes.”
Thunberg said in her six-minute talk that she found little hope in politicians and corporations when “humanity is standing at a crossroads.”
“It is we young people who are the future, but there is not time for us to grow up and become the ones in charge, because we need to tackle the climate right now,” she said.
“We want to be able to say we did everything we could to push the world in the right direction. We have something just as powerful, our voices, and we need to use them... This is our future and we will not let it be taken away from us.”
Friends Donald Shelton and Emily Broadway, both 17 and seniors at Burns High School in Lawndale, skipped school to drive the hour to Charlotte because they said climate change is so important. “There has to be a certain amount of rebellion or the government will keep shutting us down,” Shelton said.
RALEIGH — Low-performing schools around North Carolina — including seven from Guilford County — are being put on notice that they need to improve over the next few years or else they could be turned over to an outside group such as a charter-school operator.
State education officials on Thursday released a list of 69 schools that qualify for inclusion in the Innovative School District based on their low state test scores.
The lowest-performing schools that remain on the list for four years in a row are slated to be taken over by the Innovative School District, which would hire a group to run their day-to-day operations.
Forsyth County had the most schools of any district on the list at eight, followed by seven in Guilford County and Nash-Rocky Mount. Charlotte-Mecklenburg had four schools.
The Guilford County schools that made the list are:
The new list is the latest attempt to try to reshape a program that has gotten off to a rocky start.
The Innovative School District was created by Republican state lawmakers in 2016 to take up to five low-performing elementary schools away from local school district control and turn them over to an outside group to run.
Supporters of the program say it’s a way to help raise student achievement. But critics say the model, which has been used in other states, is a way to privatize education.
Southside Ashpole Elementary School in Robeson County is the only school in the district and ended the program’s first year with an “F” grade, not meeting academic growth and a drop in the percentage of students passing state exams.
“We all agreed that we were not ready for another school to be entered into the ISD next school year,” Cecilia Holden, legislative director for the state board, said at Thursday’s meeting. “The General Assembly listened.”
Senate Bill 522 will become law on Monday unless Gov. Roy Cooper vetoes the legislation. State education officials were hopeful Thursday that the bill will not be vetoed.
In return for not picking a school this year, the legislation will require the state’s lowest scoring school in the 2019-20 school year to be transferred to the district for the 2021-22 school year. It also requires the lowest scoring school in the 2020-21 school year to join the district the following school year.
The automatic selection comes after some communities have fought against their schools being taken over.
Senate Bill 522 also creates the new multi-year system for determining which schools will be added in the future. It also expanded the schools eligible for takeover to include middle schools and high schools.
The 69 schools identified Thursday make up the lowest performing 5% of schools in the state. If they’re still on the qualifying list after two years they’re moved to a watch list. Schools that are still on the qualifying list after three years are put on a warning list.
The five lowest performing schools that were on the warning list the previous year and were also on the qualifying list for four years in a row would be automatically turned over the Innovative School District.
James Ellerbe, the superintendent of the Innovative School District, said he had spoken to the superintendents of the 30 school districts who have schools on the list.
Ellerbe said he will work with the 69 schools to try to help them improve their performance so they can get off the qualifying list.