The Wilmington tours app now offers the 32-stop tour that highlights more than 200 years of African-American history
WILMINGTON – No history of the Port City could be complete without telling the stories of its African-American residents, but such stories have not always had a prominent place in historical accounts.
In more recent years, efforts have been made to right that wrong with books and studies focused on raising awareness of the African-American contributions to the Cape Fear, specifically the tragedy of the 1898 Wilmington coup.
This month, two local historians Beverly Tetterton and Dan Camacho are taking more than two dozen of those stories to the streets with a new self-guided walking tour on their Wilmington.tours smartphone app aimed at sharing the significant African-American stories that helped forge Wilmington’s history.
“When you look at much of the history of Wilmington, when half the population was African American, less than half of that recorded history is about African-American stories,” Camacho said of why they wanted to offer the tour.
The pair, which launched the app in 2013 with two tours covering downtown Wilmington, have always worked to integrate African-American stories into their previous tours, but admitted there were so many stories unique to the black community they deserved their own showcase.
The tour, which is the most comprehensive one offered on the app, includes 27 stops accessible on foot in downtown Wilmington. Five additional stops that require a bit of a drive are also included.
Each stop comes with an extensively researched written story on what significance the site or person holds to the African-American experience in Wilmington’s history, as well as present day and historic photos.
Tetterton was instrumental in the New Hanover County Library’s 1998 publication of the “Strength Through Struggle: The Chronological and Historical Record of the African-American Community in Wilmington, North Carolina, 1865-1950,” in which many of these stories were told. But the book’s timeline stops more than 70 years ago, leaving a void of stories that she has been eager to share.
“There are a lot of stories that aren’t in the book that I’ve always wanted to tell,” Tetterton said. “With our tour, we were able to add stops relating to stories like the Green Book site and Althea Gibson, just to mention a few.”
Other stops include Bellamy Mansion’s slave quarters; Orange Street Landing, where William Benjamin Gould and 21 enslaved men escaped in 1862; the former site of the black-owned Daily Record newspaper at the center of the 1898 Wilmington coup; and the former Williston Graded School.
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Many of the sites are local churches, such as Chestnut Street Presbyterian Church and St. Stephen A.M.E. Church, which Camacho said were important to the African-American community because they were among the first places established after those enslaved were freed following the Civil War.
Tetterton and Camacho suggest taking the tour in two to three outings. But if walking the extensive tour route isn’t of interest to history fans, the app can also be digested as an informative pocket history book.
“We are sort of hoping that, like our Civil War tour, this can be a little history book people can read and look back on,” Tetterton said.
The Wilmington tour app is free to download and comes with a free mini tour. The African-American history tour costs $5.99 to download. The app also includes Pub Crawl and Civil War Wilmington tours for purchase.
The app can be downloaded by going to Wilmington.tours or directly in the Apple and Google app stores.