Copyright notice

This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Printer-friendly page

Wilmington Ten

by Craig M. Stinson, 2006

On 6 Feb. 1971, after weeks of racial tension over integration of the public school system in Wilmington, a white-owned grocery store in a black neighborhood was firebombed. A year later Ben Chavis, a representative of the Commission for Racial Justice, eight black students, and one white woman were arrested, brought to trial, and convicted of the crime. Much national media coverage was given to the "Wilmington Ten," as they were subsequently called, whose sentences ranged from 23 to 24 years. CBS's 60 Minutes, the New York Times Magazine, the Soviet newspaper Izvestia, and Amnesty International all focused on the human rights issues involved in the convictions. Protests from around the country were loud, but the North Carolina Court of Appeals found nothing wrong in the way the trials had been conducted. Governor James B. Hunt Jr. refused to pardon the convicted bombers but did reduce their sentences. Nine of the ten were released in the fall of 1978, and Chavis was given his freedom in December 1979. In December 1980 the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the convictions, concluding that the initial trial had been unfair and therefore had denied the accused their constitutional rights.

Additional information from NCpedia editors at the State Library of North Carolina: : 

On December 31, 2012, Governor Beverly Perdue issued a full pardon to all of the "Wilmington Ten."


Jeffrey J. Crow, Paul D. Escott, and Flora J. Hatley, A History of African Americans in North Carolina (2002).

Additional Resources:
"Four decades later, Ben Chavis and the Wilmington Ten seek a declaration of innocence." News and Observer

"Wilmington Ten Member Dies." WECT, Downtown Wilmington:

"The Wilmington Ten" This Month in North Carolina History (blog), The North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Transcript of the Case, The United States Department of Justice:

Almasy, Steve. "North Carolina governor pardons 'Wilmington 10'" CNN. January 1, 2013. (accessed January 30, 2013).

Origin - location: 



Who was the judge who presided over the original Wilmington 10 case



It appears that the original judge was Robert M. Martin and you can read transcripts of the case at

Also, there are oral history interviews online at UNC regarding the case

Thank you, 

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library


I was directly involved with the 10s drama on the campus of John T Hoggard High School. It was a scary time for a high school junior who had never been taught to hate or be afraid of people who were different from me.

Add a comment

PLEASE NOTE: NCpedia provides the comments feature as a way for viewers to engage with the resources. Comments are not published until reviewed by NCpedia editors at the State Library of NC, and the editors reserve the right to not publish any comment submitted that is considered inappropriate for this resource. NCpedia will not publish personal contact information in comments, questions, or responses. If you would like a reply by email, note that some email servers, such as public school accounts, are blocked from accepting messages from outside email servers or domains. If you prefer not to leave an email address, check back at your NCpedia comment for a reply. Please allow one business day for replies from NCpedia. Complete guidelines are available at