North Carolina Collection NoCar F265.N4 P74 1977
In October 1972, Ben Chavis along with nine other defendants were sentenced in the February 1971 firebombing of Mike’s Grocery in Wilmington, NC. The arson stemmed from long-standing frustration among African Americans due to the slow movement of school desegregation and other social reforms in the state. Known as the Wilmington 10, the group was perceived as political prisoners and were the subject of documentaries and news articles. Human rights groups including Amnesty International and the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression took up the cause to release the prisoners. In 1977, in response to President Carter administration’s accusations of Soviet Union human rights violations, the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression called for rallies in cities across the United States to free the Wilmington 10. In January 1978, North Carolina’s Governor Jim Hunt refused to pardon the prisoners, though he commuted their sentences. In 1980, a federal appeals court overturned the Wilmington 10’s conviction, and they were released. In May 2012, forty years after their conviction, the Wilmington 10 asked Governor Beverly Purdue for pardons.