The Wilmington Ten Pardon of Innocence Project

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Description The Wilmington Ten Pardon of Innocence Project (TWTPIP) is a Black Press of America initiative adopted by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) in 2011.

The NNPA is a 200-member trade association of African-American newspapers across the nation.

The project is co-chaired by Mary Alice Thatch, publisher of the Wilmington Journal (a black newspaper that was firebombed by Ku Klux Klan member in 1972); and attorney Irving Joyner, law professor at the North Carolina Central University School of Law in Durham, NC.

Joyner is the lead counsel on the pardon of innocence project, along with attorney James Ferguson, the lead defense attorney in the Wilmington Ten case forty years ago.

The goal of the project is to generate national and worldwide support for the petition, to the state of North Carolina, and specifically the Governor, to grant individual pardons of innocence to the Wilmington Ten - eight African-American and one white civil rights activists, ages 17 to 34, led by the Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. of the United Church of Christ - who forty years ago, in September 1972, were falsely arrested, convicted and sentenced to a total of 282 years in prison for the firebombing of Mike’s Grocery in February 1971.

The Ten’s only known “crime” in 1971 was to peacefully protest the unexpected closing of Williston High School - not only an all-black high school, but one of the top achieving high schools overall in the state - and demand a high quality public education from the New Hanover County Board of Education for all students.

Because of their defiance, and Rev. Chavis’ leadership, the Ten were targeted by state prosecutors.

Their case gained worldwide notoriety, with Amnesty International officially declaring the Wilmington Ten “political prisoners,” and fifty-five members of Congress calling for their release.

The Ten all served several years of incarceration before the case against them fell apart, thanks to a 1977 CBS’ “60 Minutes” expose’. Tainted witnesses recanted, and eventually, in 1980, the US Fourth Circuit of Appeals overturned their convictions.

The federal appeals court determined that their constitutional rights had been violated, and that there was strong evidence the Ten were, in fact, innocent of all charges.

The Wilmington Ten were free, but their names were never officially cleared in North Carolina.

NOW, forty years after they were all falsely convicted and imprisoned, the surviving members of the Wilmington Ten, including the families of the three deceased members, came back to the State Capitol of North Carolina on May 17, 2012, and through their attorneys, Irving Joyner and lead defense attorney James Ferguson, petitioned Gov. Beverly Perdue to grant, after a fair and complete review of the facts, individual pardons of innocence to Connie Tindall; Willie Earl Vereen; Marvin Patrick; Anne Shepard Turner (deceased); William “Joe” Wright (deceased); Wayne Moore; Reginald Epps; Jerry Jacobs (deceased); James McKoy and Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis.

We invite all who believe in justice, to research this historic case of which much has been written and reported, and if you believe that the Wilmington Ten deserve pardons of innocence from the State of North Carolina, join us on this official page.

Like the stories of the Little Rock Nine - nine brave students who integrated Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas in 1957 amid racial tension - or the Greensboro Four, four NC A&T University students who started the sit-in movement at a Woolworth lunch counter in 1960 that sparked the civil rights movement - the story of the Wilmington Ten must be told.

But, just like the other proud stories of young people who courageously took a stand to demand justice and equality, the Wilmington Ten story, forty years hence, MUST be finished.

Please join us in that effort.

Thank you, and GOD bless.

Cash Michaels

The Wilmington Ten Pardon of Innocence Project

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