Forty years after they were wrongly convicted by a jury for firebombing a grocery store in Wilmington, North Carolina, civil rights activists who became known as the "Wilmington 10" were officially granted a pardon of innocence by out-going Governor Beverly Perdue.
After a trial filled with prosecutorial misconduct, witness perjury, and blatant racial discrimination, the group was sentenced to a total of 282 years in prison. In 1980 the convictions were overturned, but the guilty verdicts remained on public record, casting a prohibitive stigma over the group, and making it unbearably hard to get jobs to support themselves and their families.
After reviewing the cases, Governor Perdue determined the convictions were "tainted by naked racism" and as a result granted pardons to every member of the Wilmington 10. According to Perdue, the key evidence that led her to grant pardons were a series of notes from the prosecutor who picked the jury. The notes showed the prosecutor intentionally selected white jurors who who were known members of the Ku Klux Klan and one Black juror who was described as an "Uncle Tom."
The pardoning of the Wilmington 10 can never repair the decades of reduced employment opportunities, removal of the right to vote, and economic hardships experienced by the group. But that didn't deter the many members of the community and civil rights groups who still fought hard to remove the stain of a guilty conviction and restore the good names of the Wilmington 10; gathering 144,000 petition signatures, catapulting the cause into mainstream media and onto the Governor's radar. And after 40 years, on January 5th 2013, the six remaining members and family of the deceased were finally able to convene in Wilmington to receive the pardon and commemorate the historic moment.
ColorOfChange continues our fight to change discrimnatory law enforcement practices all over the country. With your help we can ensure all American citizens are garaunteed equal protection under the law, so that innocent Black folks are no longer subject to discriminatory law enforcement practices like the Wilmington 10. The fight must continue. If you haven't already done so, check out our campaign calling for an immediate end to the discrimnatory Stop and Frisk program here.