Watson Chronicle


Programs for P-12 Students

WCE Students Reenact Wilmington History for Craven Early College Sophomores

Monday, May 04, 2015

WCE Students Reenact Wilmington History for Craven Early College Sophomores

For the last two years, Craven Early College’s sophomore class has traveled to Wilmington on a day-long field trip. Global Impacts teacher Amanda Smith ’13 said a tour of downtown Wilmington and a reenactment of events surrounding the 1898 insurrection coordinated by WCE pre-service teachers is a highlight of the trip.

The insurrection, also known as the Wilmington Race Riot, began in Wilmington on November 10 and continued for several days. A mob of more than 1,500 men attacked the only black newspaper office in the state, destroying property and killing an unknown number of victims around town. This was the only coup d’état in American history where the local biracial fusion government was overthrown. The event is credited as ushering in an era of extreme racial segregation and disenfranchisement of African-Americans throughout the South.

On April 17, professor Janna Robertson and students enrolled in WCE’s secondary education program along with two volunteers dressed in turn-of the-century attire and acted as witnesses to the murders. The actors were stationed at downtown landmarks including the courthouse, the old armory, Bellamy Mansion and Thalian Hall, and each participant was given a script implicating different people. Working in groups of 10, the high school students questioned the WCE actors to gain a deeper understanding of those involved and what caused the events.

After meeting several people, the groups discussed which information was reliable, put events in order and debated answers to two basic questions: Who was most responsible for the murders and why?

Smith said her students studied the race riots in Wilmington in their global impacts course (a blend of English and American history) so they recognized the major players involved, but arriving at answers wasn’t easy.

“The downtown tour makes all the photographs and primary source articles surrounding the events real,” Smith said. “Students are challenged with the deepening question, ‘Why?’ and ultimately drawn to the conclusion that there isn’t a way to point a blaming finger into the past.”

The one word most students arrive at in their attempt to explain why is fear, she said.

WCE Students Reenact Wilmington History for Craven Early College Sophomores“More important than all the names and dates to be remembered is the lesson these students are invited to learn on this evening tour:  We are not so different. We all know fear, but when our actions are motivated by fear, they segregate us first and destroy us later,” Smith said.

Craven Early College students said the tour was fun and they enjoyed interacting with the WCE student actors. "It was a very interesting experience. It added new perspectives that we aren't told in history," one participant said.

“There is nothing more I could ask for than to have my students share this experience,” Smith said. “I feel the utmost gratitude for everyone involved.”

The WCE students who participated with Robertson in the 2015 murder mystery event were Kelly King, Kelly Antonino, Lindsey Harts, Lindsey Galloway, Kate Holt and Christina Drake.

Robertson developed the program and wrote the actors’ scripts using source materials from the 1898 commission. This is the second year she and students enrolled in the secondary education program at the Watson College have used them to enact a live history lesson for Smith’s students at Craven Early College High School.

The program benefits all participants, Robertson said. The high school students gain a broader perspective of an important event in history and the collaboration between Robertson and Smith, a former student, helps current students see that their involvement with the Watson College of Education can continue past graduation to support them when they become teachers in the schools.