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A grant from the Thalian Association funded the attached opera house, named Thalian Hall. In the city opened its first public school, named the "Union Free School", on 6th Street between Nun and Church streets, serving white students.
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Wilmington had a black majority population before the Civil War. For a period up to Nat Turner 's Rebellion, they had been allowed to vote, carry arms and serve in the militia. Fears after the rebellion resulted in the state legislature passing laws to restrict the rights of free blacks. During the Civil War , the port was the major base for Confederate and privately owned blockade runners , which delivered badly needed supplies from England.
The Union mounted a blockade to reduce the goods received by the South. The city was captured by Union forces in the Battle of Wilmington in February , approximately one month after the fall of Fort Fisher had closed the port. As nearly all the military action took place some distance from the city, numerous antebellum houses and other buildings survived the war years. During the Reconstruction era, former free blacks and newly emancipated freedmen built a community in the city.
Most blacks voted for the Republican Party, which had brought the slaves freedom. There was increasing violence around elections in this period, as armed white paramilitary insurgents, known as Red Shirts , worked to suppress black and Republican voting. Conservative white Democrats regained control of the state legislature and sought to impose white supremacy , but some blacks continued to be elected to local offices. The Wilmington Insurrection of formerly and inaccurately called a race riot occurred as a result of the racially-charged political conflict that had occurred in the decades after the Civil War and efforts by white Democrats to reestablish white supremacy and overturn black voting.
In the s, a coalition of Republicans and Populists had gained state and federal offices. The Democrats were determined to reassert their control. In , a cadre of white Democrats, professionals and businessmen, planned to overthrow the city government if their candidates were not elected. Two days after the election, in which a white Republican was elected mayor and both white and black aldermen were elected, more than white men attacked and burned the only black daily newspaper in the state and ran off the new officers.
They overthrew the legitimately-elected municipal government. On November 10, , nearly white men, led by the Democrat Alfred M.
Waddell , an unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate in , marched to the offices of the Daily Record , as they had been angered by its publisher Alex Manly. The mob broke out of control, shattering windows and setting fire to the building. Violence later broke out across town in Brooklyn, the black neighborhood, which was attacked by mobs of whites. Waddell and his men forced the elected Republican city officials to resign at gunpoint and replaced them with men selected by leading white Democrats. Waddell was elected mayor by the newly seated board of aldermen that day.
Prominent African Americans and white Republicans were banished from the city in the following days.
Whites attacked and killed an estimated blacks. No whites died in the violence. As a result of the attacks, more than blacks permanently left the city, leaving a hole among its professional and middle class. The demographic change was so large that the city became majority white, rather than the majority black it was before the white Democrats' coup. Following these events, the North Carolina legislature passed a new constitution that raised barriers to voter registration, imposing requirements for poll taxes and literacy tests that effectively disfranchised most black voters, following the example of the state of Mississippi.
Blacks were essentially disfranchised and excluded from the political system until after Congressional passage in the mids of the civil rights acts. In , Charlotte passed Wilmington to become North Carolina's largest city. The shipyard was created as part of the U. Workers built ships in Wilmington during the five years the company operated. At their peak, the camps held German prisoners. The first camp was located on the corner of Shipyard Boulevard and Carolina Beach Road; it was moved downtown to Ann Street, between 8th and 10th avenues, when it outgrew the original location.
A smaller contingent of prisoners was assigned to a third site, working in the officers' mess and doing grounds keeping at Bluethenthal Army Air Base, which is now Wilmington International Airport. This road passes through many major cities and state capitals along the way. According to the United States Census Bureau , the city has a total area of Wrightsville Beach is a popular destination in the Wilmington area.
Carolina and Kure beaches also add to the city's beach attractions. Wilmington boasts a large historic district encompassing nearly blocks. Abandoned warehouses on downtown's northern end have been recently demolished making room for multi-million dollar projects, such as the World Headquarters of Pharmaceutical Product Development PPD and a state-of-the-art convention center. Between and , crime rates, as reported through the Federal Bureau of Investigation 's Uniform Crime Reports , decreased in 6 of the 8 reported categories.
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Wilmington has an increasing problem with gang violence  and on October 15, the WPD and NHC Sheriffs department created a joint task force to combat gang violence. According to census estimates,  there were , people and 47, households in the city. The population density was 2, The racial composition of the city was: There were 34, households out of which The average household size was 2.
In the city, the population was spread out with The median age was 34 years. For every females, there were For every females age 18 and over, there were Less than half of Wilmington's population is religiously affiliated The two largest Christian denominations in Wilmington are Protestant: There are also a significant number of Presbyterians 3. Other Christian denominations make up 7. Much smaller is the proportion of residents who follow Islam 0. A small percentage of people practice Eastern religions 0.
Wilmington has significant historical religious buildings, such as the Basilica Shrine of St.
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Mary and the Temple of Israel. American Airlines carries a large share of the airport's traffic, and therefore flies the largest of the aircraft in and out of the airport. The airport serves over , travelers per year. The airport is also home to two fixed-base operations FBO's which currently house over private aircraft. The airport maintains a separate International Terminal providing a full service Federal Inspection Station to clear international flights. Customs and Border Protection, U. Dept of Agriculture and the U. The airport is 4 miles from downtown. Public transit in the area is provided by the Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority ,  which operates fixed bus routes, shuttles, and a free downtown trolley under the brand name Wave Transit.
A daily intercity bus service to Raleigh is provided by Greyhound Lines. The City of Wilmington offers transient docking facilities  in the center of Downtown Wilmington along the Cape Fear River approximately The Gary Shell Cross-City Trail is primarily a multi-use trail which provides bicycle and pedestrian access to numerous recreational, cultural and educational destinations in Wilmington. Wilmington's industrial base includes electrical, medical, electronic and telecommunications equipment; clothing and apparel; food processing; paper products; nuclear fuel; and pharmaceuticals.
Also important to Wilmington's economy is tourism due to its close proximity to the ocean and vibrant nightlife.
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According to the City's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are: The city supports a very active calendar with its showcase theater, Thalian Hall , hosting about events annually. The complex has been in continuous operation since it opened in and houses three performance venues, the Main Stage, the Grand Ballroom, and the Studio Theater. For more than half a century, the Hannah Block Historic USO Building has facilitated the coming together of generations, providing children with programs that challenge them creatively, and enhance the quality of life for residents throughout the region.
The theater seats and is a popular performance venue for many community theater groups and other entertainment productions. The production area consists of a music recital hall, art gallery, and two theaters. Sponsored events include 4 theater productions a year. The Brooklyn Arts Center at St. Andrews is a year old building on the corner of North 4th and Campbell St in downtown Wilmington.
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The BAC is used for weddings, concerts, fundraisers, art shows, vintage flea markets, and other community-driven events. Since , Wilmington hosts an annual, nationally recognized, independent film festival, the "Cucalorus".