It’s a failure of our state’s public education system that most North Carolinians will tell you, they never learned about the 1898 Wilmington massacre. 

David Zucchino, a contributing writer for The New York Times and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill alumnus, is working to change that, and today, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his efforts.

The Pulitzer organization announced its prize winners this afternoon and Zucchino won in the category of General Non Fiction for his book Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy.

In the book, Zucchino chronicles the port city’s fall from grace as one of the only Black safe havens in the south. In the early 1890s, the city had a prominent Black middle class, Black city council members and other government leaders, and a large Black electorate; all in all, it was a mixed-race, progressive city. 

On November 10, 1898, about 2,000 white supremacists stormed Wilmington’s streets, burning down Black-owned businesses and overthrowing the city’s mixed-race government. To this day, the public does not know how many people were killed in the massacre but it could be as many as 300.

Zucchino tells the story of the massacre in the post-Reconstruction South and the rise of the all-white government afterwards. The book is a timely commentary on how the media in Wilmington spread lies to justify the coup and massacre. 

Zucchino was also awarded a Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing in 1989 for coverage of apartheid in South Africa as a reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer.  He is a four-time Pulitzer Prize finalist for coverage of Philadelphia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa.

Vernal Coleman, a former INDY Week staff writer, also won a Pulitzer today for Investigative Reporting as a member of The Boston Globe’s investigative team.

The Globe’s reporting uncovered a systematic failure by state governments to share information about dangerous truck drivers that could have kept them off the road and prompted immediate reforms. 

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