ENC historians reflect on first anniversary of Capitol riot

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – It has been one year since a mob swarmed the U.S. Capitol due to claims by former President Donald Trump that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

Looking back in reflection, East Carolina University history professors say the event is unlike anything else written in their textbooks.

“For a domestic enemy, an enemy of the country, to actually occupy the halls of Congress really is unprecedented,” Dr. Gerald Prokopowicz, who specializes in public history and the Civil War era at ECU said.

On one hand, Prokopowicz explains, looking at the Jan. 6 insurrection could bring about connections to 1814, when the British attacked Washington D.C. and burned down the White House.

However, on the other, an attack by our country’s own citizens within the halls of the Capitol has never occurred before in American history. That makes Jan. 6, 2021 entirely unique.

“This was an attempted coup,” Dr. Karin Zipf declared.

Zipf, who specializes in gender, race, women, apprenticeship, and Reconstruction, says the insurrection was charged by more complex, inner voices in the federal government.

It is the job of both Zipf and Prokopowicz to analyze historical events and place them in the present context for their students.

Living through this era of uncharacteristic political action brings about a new understanding of past insurgencies.

Still, Prokopowicz says, “It’s very hard on a day-to-day basis to see it around you, [and] know what to do next.”

As for the professors’ lectures on the fateful Jan. 6 day, they remain to be written.

If Zipf could make an educated guess on where to start, she says, “I would begin with what is a coup and I would try to talk about examples in our fairly recent history that Americans might be able to connect to, including, especially here in North Carolina, 1898.”

That moment in North Carolina history Zipf references is the Wilmington Massacre of 1898, when white supremacists overthrew a biracial government and massacred at least 60 black residents.

Thursday morning, President Biden and Vice President Harris addressed the nation, reassuring Americans that in this case, democracy won.

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