WILMINGTON, N.C. – Cape Fear Museum is pleased to announce that its Reconstruction gallery, which examines life after the Civil War, has been revamped to create a more accurate and inclusive account of life in the region. The time period after 1865, known to historians as Reconstruction, was marked by great changes. Most notably, it was a time when newly-freed African Americans gained social, political and economic rights. It was also marred by the rise of a white supremacy movement that caused one of the most significant events in Wilmington’s history – the race-based violence the city experienced in November of 1898.
The new installation replaces a display that dated from the early 1990s. Since that time, new work has shed light on the events of 1898. The hundredth anniversary of the events of 1898 brought renewed interest to the subject and attempts to fix its place in the state’s history. In 2000, the North Carolina General Assembly set up a Race Riot Commission to examine the history and significance of the events in Wilmington. That commission’s report, published in 2006, formed the basis for a film produced by the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh for their Story of North Carolina exhibition. This video is the centerpiece of the renovated Reconstruction gallery. “We work collaboratively with the Museum of History on many projects,” notes Museum Director Sheryl Mays. “It is through their generosity that we are able to provide this new interpretative experience for our visitors.”
Museum Historian Jan Davidson said of the gallery redesign, “We believe our new interpretation will help visitors understand how the events of 1898 were a turning point in the state’s history as North Carolina began to pass wide-ranging segregation laws.” Additional historical information, artifacts and images have been added to enhance visitor’s understanding of the time period.