The Wilmington 10: Pardoned At Long Last

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 [Black Star News Editorial]
her full pardon of the Wilmington 10 outgoing North Carolina governor Bev Perdue
on Monday brought an admirable close to this case but also reminded us of a sad chapter of our history.

10, nine young African American males and one white woman were
convicted based on false testimony, on conspiracy and arson charges in
1971. Eight were students; the white woman was an anti-poverty activist.

One of the most prominent of
those convicted was
Ben Chavis who had actually ben sent to Wilmington by The United Church of
Christ to try and help quell racial tensions simmering due to the slow
pace of integration. It was during a period of school boycotts and when
the KKK patrolled the streets.

Chavis, who later headed the NAACP was in prison
for four years.  The total sentences against the 10 had come to 282

In a statement Monday Perdue
said: "These convictions were tainted by naked racism and represent an
ugly stain on North Carolina's criminal justice system that cannot be
allowed to stand any longer."

The Wilmington 10 started serving their terms in 1976, four years
after convictions, after long appeals. Although the
convictions were overturned in 1980 by a federal court the victims spent
several years behind bars and were never pardoned.

They went to prison based on fabricated evidence. New evidence also showed that the prosecutor
tinkered with the jury makeup. A Black juror, in a note was referred to
as an "uncle Tom" while a White KKK member was called a "good" guy. 

The 10 had been charged with setting a White-owned business ablaze then
firing at firefighters who came to put out the flames.
There were two deaths during rioting -- the police and National Guard later made the
arrests including of Chavis and his group, claiming that the shots had
come from the rooftop of the church where they met.

Over the years several people who had testified against the Wilmington 10 recanted.  
So, better
late then never. Chavis himself is now 64, other survivors are elderly
while four -- Jerry Jacobs, William Joe Wright, Anne Sheppard and Connie
Tindall -- are now all deceased.

Perdue did the right thing -- something two Democratic governors ahead of her had rejected. 

applaud Gov. Beverly Perdue for her leadership in righting this
disgraceful wrong and congratulate the NAACP North Carolina State
Conference, NAACP members and activists around the country for their
work to raise awareness about this case," NAACP President and CEO
Benjamin Todd Jealous said, in a statement.

Activists from
around the world, including the NAACP, Amnesty International, and the
Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project worked hard. Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project was a justice
outreach effort of the National Newspaper Publishers Association and the
Wilmington Journal newspaper, where the effort was coordinated by Cash

Michaels, chief reporter and columnist for The
newspaper, and staff writer for the Wilmington Journal
newspaper,  is known to New Yorkers as one of the three panelists
--together with The Black Star News's Milton Allimadi and The Michigan
Bankole Thompson-- who discuss national politics on Imhotep
Gary Byrd's show every Sunday evening on WLIB radio.

"Gov. Perdue’s
historic action today doesn’t remove the past forty years of injustice
against ten innocent American citizens – North Carolinians who stood up
for equal treatment under the law in our public education system. But it
does correct the historical record, that Connie Tindall, Jerry Jacobs,
William Joe Wright, Anne Sheppard, Wayne Moore, Marvin Patrick, James
McKoy, Willie Earl Vereen, and the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Chavis, were indeed
innocent of all charges falsely assessed to them by a corrupt
prosecutor who, to this day, has not answered for what he did," the
Pardons of Innocence Project noted in a statement.

"On behalf
of the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project and the NNPA, thank
you to the NAACP,, and all who assisted us in this vital
quest for justice," the statement read.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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