I recently received a petition request on behalf of the Wilmington 10, a group of activists who, in 1971 were arrested, charged, and convicted of arson in Wilmington, North Carolina. In 1976, Amnesty International provided counsel for an appeal that their Constitutional Rights were violated in the trials and in 1980 their convictions were overturned on the State level.
Bear in mind that the year in which this took place was a time of severe political turmoil as the Southern Conservatives, bolstered by promises from then President Richard M. Nixon to return their Jim Crow laws, refused to desegregate schools. Note that the ruling for desegregation occurred 17 years earlier and only 7 years prior to this event, the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 was passed by an overwhelming majority in BOTH Houses of Congress. Indeed, I can tell you from experience, that as late as 1972, desegregation had not yet occurred in racist Louisiana—I was there. To read my experience, which is rather different, check out my article, A Challenge to All White Americans.
This was not an easy time for anyone, especially African-Americans who were expecting that the States comply with what the Federal government had already guaranteed. The Wilmington 10 were indeed activists, this has never been disputed. But their possible role in the arson of the store, in which no one was killed, is tenuous at best.
Indeed, I recall the events of the day for my grandfather (who is likely responsible for my deep interest in politics) watched only the news whenever it was on. As I child, I did not like this, but it was the only TV in the house and he would make me watch the news with him.
Indeed, I still recall the news footage of the pullout from Vietnam by means of choppers from rooftops in Cambodia. I still recall the lunar landing. I still recall the Kent State shootings in 1970. And I recall the Wilmington 10. The issue was divisive and inconclusive even at that time as it went to trial. None-the-less, a racist, stacked, jury found them guilty…duh.
However, I was shocked to find that after having convictions overturned these people did not receive a pardon from the State. This means that for the last 40 years, these innocent people have been blocked from certain rights which you and I take for granted. In other words, found not-guilty, they are still required to “pay” for crimes not committed. Why?
Because they are Black and were convicted by bigots in North Carolina, who simply do not want any African-American to rise in social station—this is what the Jim Crow laws were all about.
Occam’s Razor states…
Among competing hypotheses, the simplest explanation is likely the correct.
The MOST plausible explanation for this travesty of justice after 40 YEARS is that North Carolina is STILL a bastion of racism and bigotry.
Is there any evidence of this?
This State continues to lean Republican, which in my latest book I argue is still promoting the racist strategy of Nixon, but this is shifting somewhat in recent years. Indeed, since the days of Nixon, the State has voted Democrat only twice, but bear in mind that one of those years went to Jimmy Carter, who WAS a Southern Conservative Democrat. So the only year that really counts towards considering change was 2008, when the vote went to candidate Obama. However, in 2012, the state swung again toward the Racist Republicans.
Hence, the continued reluctance to exonerate the Wilmington ten indicates that the charge levied by the former USSR, that we penalize political dissidents in this country just like them, appears to be true. This is a prime example that the racist war on Blacks started by Nixon is alive and well.
What the Wilmington 10 is requesting is not unreasonable. Most of them are now in their 60s and their lives are fast approaching the end. Haven’t they about paid for their crime of trying to get what was promised to them by Congress? Remember, they were exonerated of the charges…all they are paying for now is seeking to make a better life for their posterity—something any of us, Black or White, would try to do.
If you agree with this position, follow this link and sign their petition to the Governor of the State of North Carolina. A Governor can only pardon past charges on leaving office, which happens at the end of 2012—in just a week and 3 days. For most of these, this will be the last chance they have to get their names cleared. Please sign today and pass on the message while there is still time.
NOTE: If you would like to know more about how the GOP has continued a war on Blacks as the strategy outlined by Nixon, read The Cowards in Charge: “The Whole Problem is Really with the Blacks,” now on Amazon.
C. Jeff Oakes
- Wilmington 10: NAACP Unveils New Evidence Seeking Pardon (huffingtonpost.com)
- How Reagan Won the Hearts (and votes) of Southern Conservatives (cowardsincharge.wordpress.com)
- Notes suggest race shaped jury in Wilmington 10 case (newsobserver.com)
- The Republican Party’s Assault on Black Communities (cowardsincharge.wordpress.com)
- NAACP discusses Wilmington 10 prosecutor’s notes (wcnc.com)