Winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize, Wilmington's Lie uses contemporary newspaper accounts, diaries, letters and official communications to create a narrative of the Wilmington insurrection and coup of 1898, a remarkable but often forgotten chapter of American history.
David Zucchino’s engaging and disturbing book, Wilmington’s Lie, not only vividly reconstructs the events of 1898 but reveals the mountain of lies that has stood in the way of a truer, if not a reconciled, history. All those in America who do not understand the old and festering foundation of contemporary voter suppression should read this book ... Zucchino’s writing is crisp and declarative. Some of the book reads like in-depth reporting, yet he also expresses a careful level of moral indignation against the blunt racism he uncovers. His portraits of the three principal leaders of the white supremacy campaign in 1898 are particularly skillful ... Zucchino is at his best as he builds the historical infrastructure of lies from which the story of Wilmington emerged ... Zucchino’s work is both enlightening and painful. At times the reader feels some whiplash from being pushed back and forth through history. His explanation of the election of 1876 as an end of Reconstruction is a bit simplistic ... But Zucchino is a marvelous writer. Only at the end of the book does he draw any direct comparison to today’s voter suppression in North Carolina and elsewhere, but one feels that treacherous legacy on nearly every page.
... brilliant ... Zucchino does not overwrite the scenes. His moral judgment 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 ... Zucchino pulls the story into our present moment ... What becomes clear, at least to me, is that memory and trauma look different depending on which side of the tracks you stand.
Zucchino offers a gripping account of one of the most disturbing, though virtually unknown, political events in American history ... a grim but fascinating story, and an instructive one ... Mr. Zucchino welds probing research and a crisp writing style into a dramatic rendering of events, and he goes on to show their ramifications for African-Americans across the South ... Mr. Zucchino’s narrative toggles skillfully between the city’s black community and the activities of the white insurrectionists ... 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 ... 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.