Alexander Manly

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Not to be confused with Alexandra Manly.

Alexander (or Alex) L. Manly (1866–1944) was notable as an African-American newspaper owner and editor in North Carolina in the late 19th century.[1] With his brother Frank G. Manly as co-owner, he published the Daily Record (Wilmington, North Carolina), the state's only daily African-American newspaper and possibly the nation's only black-owned daily newspaper. At the time, the port of Wilmington had 10,000 residents and was the state's largest city; its population was majority black, with a rising middle class.

In August 1898 Manly published a controversial editorial, at a time when white Democrats were inflaming racial tensions and promoting white supremacy in a bid to regain power in the state legislature. They had lost control in the 1894 and 1896 elections to fusion candidates supported by a Republican and Populist coalition; these voters also elected Republican Daniel L. Russell as governor in 1896. When a biracial fusionist candidates were elected to Wilmington's mayor and council, a secret committee of Democrats conducted the only coup d'état in United States history, overturning the city government. They also ran the Manly brothers out of town, threatening their lives; a large mob destroyed the printing press and burned down the newspaper offices; out of control, it also attacked black neighborhoods and killed an estimated 30-100 persons.

The Manly brothers were among the 2100 African Americans who permanently moved out of Wilmington after the riot, resulting in its becoming a majority-white city. The brothers lived briefly to Washington, DC, where Alex married. He and his wife moved to Philadelphia, where they had a family. (Frank Manly moved to Alabama and taught at Tuskegee University.) Alex Manly never fully recovered from his losses, having to support his family as a painter. But, he was politically active, helping found The Armstrong Association, a precursor to the National Urban League, and was a member of the African-American newspaper council.

Early life[edit]

Alexander L. Manly, called "Alex," was born in 1866 in Wilmington, North Carolina, the largest city in the state by the turn of the century. His parents were of mixed race: his freedman father was a former slave and his mother had been a free woman of color before emancipation. Through his father's paternal line, Manly was a descendant of Governor Charles Manly and had other European ancestry.[2] Among his siblings was a brother Frank G. Manly. After attending local schools, Alex Manly attended Hampton University, a historically black college. He later returned to Wilmington, where he taught Sunday school at Chestnut Street Presbyterian Church.[3]

Professional career[edit]

In 1895, Manly became the owner and editor of the Wilmington Daily Record, the only daily African-American newspaper in the state and possibly the nation. He shared ownership with his brother Frank G. Manly.[4][5] This progressive newspaper was for blacks in the Wilmington community and it was heralded as "The Only Negro Daily in the World".[6] The Daily Record advocated for black civil rights, better healthcare, roads, and bicycle paths.[7] Its success attracted white advertisers, and the newspaper and its editors were well respected in Wilmington.[8]

Political background[edit]

During this time, Wilmington had a majority-black population. Statewide the Republican Party had mostly black members.[9] In 1894 and 1896, the state had three active parties: fusion candidates of the allied Republican and Populist parties (which were respectively composed of mostly black and white members) gained control of the state legislature in the elections, defeating the Democrats. In 1896, Republican Daniel L. Russell was elected as governor as a Fusionist candidate, the first Republican since Reconstruction. In 1898 the fusionist legislature passed a law to expand the franchise for the first time since Reconstruction by lowering property requirements, which benefited the majority whites of the state as well as blacks.

But, the Democrats rejected this progress and worked to regain dominance of the legislature. In 1898 they inflamed white racial fears and campaigned for white supremacy, suggesting "the Democratic citizenry [should] overthrow political domination and control of the Negro”.[10]

1898 editorial[edit]

Mrs. Rebecca Felton of Georgia gave a speech before the Agricultural Society at Tybee, where she spoke out in favor of the widespread lynching of African-American men in order to protect white women.[11] On August 18, 1898, Alexander Manly published an editorial in Daily Record responding to her speech, which had been published in the Wilmington Messenger.[12] She had suggested that blacks preyed on white women.[13]

Manly denounced lynching but attracted the most attention for writing that consensual relationships did take place between white women and black men.[14] He noted flaws in the white double standard of assuming black “rape” in all relationships of black men with white women. He argued that the stereotype of the “Black Bully” was incorrect, noting that love and attraction did not adhere to racial or cultural bounds.[14] He said that white men were hypocrites for protecting their white women while having long preyed on black women.[15]

Racial tensions[edit]

His opinion piece attracted national attention after being re-published in The News and Observer, in a year when racial tensions were already high, inflamed by the Democratic campaigns for the pending election. Democrats were promoting white supremacy and exaggerating racial fears.[16] Manly’s ideas about interracial relationships were controversial in the segregated society. Thomas Clawson, a white local businessman and editor of The Wilmington Messenger, claimed that the article “made Wilmington seethe with uncontrollable indignation, bitterness, and rage”.[17] Critics described Manly's article as slanderous and degrading to white women.[18]

Political tensions[edit]

Democrats played off Manly's provocative editorial, claiming that “as long as fusion remains, Negro men would continue preying on white women”.[19] Thomas Clawson published Manly's article daily in his newspaper in the weeks leading up to the November 9th election.[6] Additionally, Democrats carried copies of Manly’s editorial to generate controversy to strengthen their appeal.[20] The editorial was so controversial that Republicans claimed that the Democrats, not Manly, had written it.[21]

Democrats primarily used racial fears to regain control of the state legislature in the election on November 9, 1898.[22] Much of the state was watching the outcome of elections in Wilmington, the largest city and with a majority-black population. A secret committee of white Democrats had already planned the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898 if they lost local offices and control of city government. despite the racial rhetoric, in 1898 a biracial fusion ticket won the mayor's office and control of the city council: the mayor and two-thirds of the aldermen were white. Democrats initiated their insurrection.[23]

Wilmington Insurrection[edit]

Democrats were determined to make a coup d'état to overthrow the city government after losing the election.[24] A group of white supremacists, known as the Committee of Twenty-five, first decided to remove publisher Manly from Wilmington by force.[25] The Committee gave leaders of the black community an ultimatum: the Manly brothers would have to be gone from the city by 10am on November 10, or else they would be forcefully removed.[18] But on the night of November 9, a “pre-arranged lynching party” went to the Daily Record to find Manly.[26] They had declared him an outlaw o be killed on sight.[27] According to an 1898 account, when the men arrived, they found 200 armed Negroes at the newspaper to help protect the Daily Record and the Manly brothers.[28] The brothers fled town that night.[29] While there is debate about how Alex and Frank Manly left Wilmington, by November 10, the brothers had left the city. a large white mob of more than 1500 people destroyed the printing press and burned the offices of the Daily Record to the ground.[29] [30]

Personal life and later career[edit]

Manly and his brother Frank moved to Washington, D.C. in 1900.[31] Frank Manly eventually moved to Alabama, where he taught at Tuskegee University, a noted historically black college.

While in the capital, Alex Manly met Caroline Sadgwar, a graduate of Fisk University and a member of the Fisk Jubilee Singers.[31] She was also of mixed race: her father was born into slavery of European and African ancestry, and her mother was Cherokee.[32] The couple were wed at the home of George Henry White in the capital.[31][33]

Together, they moved to Philadelphia, where their two sons were born: Milo[34] and Lewin. Milo Manly became an activist and fought for black property rights in Wilmington;[35][36] he later became executive director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.[1]

In Philadelphia, Alex Manly became a member of an African-American newspaper council. He helped found The Armstrong Association, a precursor to the National Urban League.[31] He suffered from losing his newspaper and worked as a painter to support his family. His sons were marked by the family's losses as well, and descendants have said the family frequently talked about "what might have been" if Alex Manly had not been run out of Wilmington and lost his business.[1] But, Manly and his descendants persisted and were described as “among Philadelphia’s most industrious and civic minded citizens [37] Lewin Manly was less successful than his brother, as he did not finish college. He worked as a waiter in Savannah, Georgia, married and divorced. His namesake son, Lewin Manly, Jr., became a successful dentist. When a Commission was appointed to study the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898, Lewin Manly, Jr. was among those who supported compensation to descendants of victims for property and economic losses.[1]


  • 1994, the site of Manly's newspaper, Daily Record, is marked by a historical plaque that includes information about him and the insurrection of 1898, noted as a turning point in state history.
  • A small collection of Manly's papers, including photographs of him and his brother, and his wife and son Milo, is held at East Carolina University.[38]
  • Manly is discussed in The North Carolina Election of 1898, Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.[39]


  1. ^ a b c d Eric Frazier, "Lewin Manly: The injustice we never forget", Charlotte Observer and News, 19 November 2006, accessed 29 July 2014
  2. ^ Umfleet 2009, p. 61
  3. ^ Umfleet 2009, 61.
  4. ^ Clawson 1898, 2.
  5. ^ "Photo: Alex Manly and his brother Frank," c. 1898, Alex L. Manly Papers, East Carolina University
  6. ^ a b Miller 1991
  7. ^ Edmonds 1979, p. 159.
  8. ^ Clawson 1898, p. 2
  9. ^ Edmonds 1979, 5.
  10. ^ Clawson 1898, 1
  11. ^ "August 18, 1898: Wilmington Record Editorial", The North Carolina Election of 1898, University of North Carolina, accessed 30 July 2014
  12. ^ Litwack 1999, 123
  13. ^ Frazier 2006
  14. ^ a b Hayden 1936, p. 13
  15. ^ Hayden 1936, 13
  16. ^ Edmonds 1979, p. 147
  17. ^ Clawson 1898, p. 8
  18. ^ a b Clawson 1898, p. 2
  19. ^ Edmonds (1979), p. 5
  20. ^ Edmonds (1979), p. 6
  21. ^ Edmonds (1979), p. 148
  22. ^ Clawson (1898), p. 4
  23. ^ Clawson (1898), p. 2
  24. ^ Clawson 1898, 3
  25. ^ Umfleet 2009, 77
  26. ^ Clawson 1898, 8
  27. ^ Hayden 1936, p. 13n
  28. ^ Clawson 1898, p. 9
  29. ^ a b Clawson 1898, 9
  30. ^ "Chapter 5", 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission Report, North Carolina Dept. of Cultural Resources
  31. ^ a b c d Umfleet 2009, 184
  32. ^ Miles 2012
  33. ^ "Photo: Alex Manly and wife, Caroline Sadgwar Manly, c. 1925", Alex L. Manly Papers, East Carolina University
  34. ^ "Photo: Alex Manly and family," c. 1900, Alex L. Manly Papers, East Carolina University
  35. ^ "Photo: Milo Manly," n.d., Alex L. Manly Papers, East Carolina University
  36. ^ Umfleet 2009, 154
  37. ^ Edmonds 1979, p. 177n.
  38. ^ Alex L. Manly Papers, 1898-1899, East Carolina University
  39. ^ Photo of Alex Manly as a young man is part of John Henry William Bonitz Papers, 1863-1973


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