“North Carolina’s Wilmington Morning Star (circ. 17,866) went to press with a front-page picture of four Marine witnesses in the court-martial of Sergeant Matthew C. McKeon. As soon as the paper hit his desk, the editor on duty gulped and stopped the presses.
“He had failed to notice, in the shadowy impression on the Associated Press mat that supplied the picture, that one of the marines, Private Eugene W. Ervin of Bridgeport, Conn., was a Negro. The deskman met the crisis by ordering a pressman to take hammer and chisel to the press plate.
“Next morning Private Ervin’s ragged ghost haunted the spot where the Morning Star cut out the Negro and spited its front page.”
— From Time magazine, Aug. 13, 1956
Don’t miss the belated, bittersweet coda in this morning’s Wilmington Star-News.
Not a single surviving clipping of the infamous front page? Might the North Carolina Collection hold any evidence?
“The Revolution’s epochal battle between patriots and Tories came on October 7, 1780, at Kings Mountain on the North Carolina-South Carolina border, when some 900 rebels annihilated a force of about 1,200 loyalists, all Americans but for the British officer who led them.
“The rebels took 698 prisoners and, for murky reasons of vengeance, held a campfire court martial that sentenced 36 of the captives to death. After nine were hanged — three at a time, from the limb of a great oak tree — officers stopped the lynching. On the march to prison, a survivor later wrote, an unknown number of captives, ‘worn out with fatigue, and not being able to keep up,’ were ‘cut down and trodden to death in the mire.’
“To Tories everywhere, Kings Mountain sounded a call to reality. All the combatants except Col. Patrick Ferguson had been American, and those who chose to fight for King George III had chosen the wrong side.”
— From “With Little Less Than Savage Fury” by Thomas B. Allen in American Heritage magazine (Fall 2010)