The Fusionists Became Intolerable An integrated “Fusionist” coalition of Republicans and Populists controlled much of Wilmington’s municipal government through the 1880s and 1890s. The city was 60 percent black, with a significant black middle class. The Plessy decision of 1896 ushered in legal segregation and Jim Crow and invigorated local white supremacist Democrats, who plotted, yes plotted, to overthrow the Fusionists.
Alex Manly, grandson of NC Governor Manly and one of his slaves, wrote an article in the Daily Record denouncing lynching and defending interracial relationships. This drove the white Democrats crazy.
Manly wrote his editorial in April 1898, but no whites saw it until the white Daily Messenger ran it over and over, just before the November 1898 election. Although they routed the integrated Fusionist government, the Democrats demanded that the Fusionists step down immediately. “Red Shirts,” the burning of The Record, a Gatling gun and 60 deaths achieved the coup d’etat on November 10, 1898. In the aftermath, a special train to take members of the black middle class from Wilmington assured white supremacist Democrat hegemony for decades.
Heavily armed Spanish American War veterans at the Light Infantry building November 9, 1898 prepare to take city government from the Fusionists. Thugs from adjacent counties, the Red Shirts, targeted blacks indiscriminately. At least 60 blacks were killed.
Manly’s Daily Record was destroyed by a white mob on November 9, 1898. Manly escaped.
Williston Industrial High School prepared thousands of black students for professions and vocations from the late 19 th century to 1968. 1954 Brown v Board of Education mandated national school desegregation. 1968: Wilmington’s Public Schools were integrated by closing Williston and sending its students and teachers to one of two white high schools, New Hanover or Hoggard.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was scheduled to speak in Wilmington on April 4, 1968. However, he canceled to remain in Memphis with the Garbage Worker’s Strike and was killed on that day. Williston students’ protests turned to rioting, lasting for 5 days. 27 buildings were burned.
200 Williston students marched to Thalian Hall on 4/5/68 to protest the King assassination.
The April 1968 riots ranged across the north and south sides of Wilmington’s CBD.
A Voice of Reason: Mrs. Bertha Todd, Librarian at Williston in ‘52-68 (Hoggard in 68- 69), explained in 2006 that in 1971 “an 1898 mentality prevailed.” (The Real Help)
Williston was not integrated, but New Hanover and Hoggard received the Black students and teachers in Fall of 1968. Two uneasy years of protests and inter-racial fights ensued. Tim Tyson described his 5 years in Wilmington’s Jr. & Sr. Highs as a “protracted prison movie.” Black students missed the opportunities in extracurricular activities that were denied them in the white schools. White students resented the Blacks’ presence. Although, many have commented that the real problem was the parents and a group known as the ROWP.
For nearly two years, Black students fought with white students For nearly two years, Black students fought with white students Police were a constant presence in both schools Police were a constant presence in both schools Black students complained that they were denied access to sports teams and academic clubs Black students complained that they were denied access to sports teams and academic clubs In the Fall of 1970, a school boycott was organized. In the Fall of 1970, a school boycott was organized.
Hemenway School Board Headquarters, N. 5 th St. burned from all four corners in May 1971
Reverend Templeton asked the United Church of Christ's Commission for Racial Justice to send a facilitator to organize and lead the student boycott. On 2/1/71, the UCCCRJ sent 23 year old Benjamin Chavis, an ordained minister. Chavis had been an organizer in Oxford, N.C., his home town, where a racial murder had sparked riots, and in Charlotte, N.C., where he had been a student organizer during desegregation of the schools there.
Much of it was near Mike’s and Gregory Church. Two people died.
Benjamin Chavis (Muhammad) 1971; at the Ten’s Appeal Press Conference in 1973; & at the 35 th anniversary in 2006
Chavis went to work for the UCC after he got out of jail. Later he became the National Chairman of the NAACP. After resigning amid a scandal, he joined the Nation of Islam and took the name Muhammad. He now works for Russell Simmons’ Hip Hop Network.
Chavis led a protest against the injustices to the high schoolers on the steps of Thalian Hall, February 1971
Lum’s Restaurant, a popular hangout in a white suburb, burned on 2/5/71. The owners claimed that a sophisticated timed incendiary device had been placed in the men’s room and that Chavis and several other blacks had lingered there all night. Others claimed that it was torched for an insurance claim.
Nine WPD officers and Williams and Millis were KKK members. When this became common knowledge, they resigned from the klan.
Mike’s Grocery burned on February 6, 1971. Police and firemen received sniper fire, said to be coming from Gregory Church.
Kojo Nantambu (Roderick Kirby in 1971(R)) counted 33 cars with white passengers “bristling with guns” circling Gregory on 2/6/71; In 2006 (L) is president of the Charlotte NAACP, an ordained minister and a Mecklenburg County Schools Administrator.
Mike’s Grocery was a white-owned business in the Black community near Gregory Church. Mike Poulos was reputed to have slapped a Black customer and refused to sell alcohol to minors earlier on the day of the fire- bombing. At the trial in 1972, Allen Hall, the prosecution’s main witness, admitted his own role as one of the arsonists at Mike’s, who then, with Chavis, sniped at emergency personnel.
Two people died. Steve Mitchell, a Black 16 year old was killed on the night of the Mike’s Grocery arson in a nearby alley. An unfired shotgun was found by his body. Harvey Cumber, white, was found shot to death in his truck near Gregory Church the next day. He had a loaded 38. His body was driven through town by his relatives on the back of a flatbed truck.
200 National Guardsmen arrived in Wilmington on 2/8/71 to restore order.
In 2012, Ferguson was the lead attorney in the first court case to test the Racial Justice Act.
A Good Defense Faced An Uphill Battle: Attorney James Ferguson’s initial motion to quash the indictments argued that the Ten were denied their state and federal Constitutional rights to a jury of their peers was denied. Ferguson discovered the D.A.’s witness tampering, when Allen Hall, the state’s main witness, waived at him from the Holiday Inn at Wrightsville Beach, where the DA had him and the other witnesses sequestered. Ferguson’s 5 attempts to force disclosure were denied. Ultimately, his appeal was heard and the Ten were released.
. The Wilmington Ten received a combined total of 232 years in 1972. Chavis’s sentence was the longest. Wayne Moore Anne Sheppard Ben Chavis Marvin Patrick Joe Wright Connie Tindall Reginald Epps Jerry Jacobs James McKoy Willie Vereen
The Pender County Courthouse in Burgaw, N.C. 30 miles from Wilmington, where both trials were held.
Two trials in 1972: The first jury was composed of 10 blacks and 2 whites. Assistant DA Stroud developed a stomach ache, was taken to a hospital, and a mistrial was declared. When he recovered, a new jury was selected after 40 dismissals by Stroud. The new jury consisted of 10 whites and two blacks.
State’s Witnesses Damned the Ten Allen Hall, 17, committed to Cherry Mental Hospital for 5 weeks in October 1971 Jerome Mitchell, 16, later imprisoned Eric Junius, aged 12 at the time, was given a mini-bike after the trial by Stroud All 3 eventually recanted their testimony, then died young.
The three state’s witnesses were bribed by Jay Stroud with stays in beachfront hotels, games, fishing, visits to parents and from girlfriends, and promised immunity from prosecutions for the firebombing and other crimes in exchange for their testimony against Chavis and his 9 co-defendants. These favors and the witnesses’ whereabouts were hidden from the jury, although the defense knew that the boys were sequestered at the beach, because Allen Hall had waived to Attorney Ferguson from a balcony at Wrightsville Beach’s Holiday Inn. The witnesses were then moved to a cottage at Carolina Beach, where Hall attacked a guard with a knife and was taken to jail. No charges were filed against Hall in the attack.
Stroud refused to disclose the witnesses’ whereabouts throughout the trial, despite repeated requests by the defense. When questions arose about the reliability of Hall’s testimony, which conflicted with his sworn statements, Stroud refused to supply the amended written statement that he claimed matched the trial testimony, saying that he had corrected Hall’s statement by hand and that the defense had no right to his working notes. Stroud also refused to disclose Hall’s psychiatric evaluation, which included information that Hall’s IQ of 82, made him “borderline defective” mentally and therefore an unreliable witness.
Hall testified that Chavis Played the leadership role at Gregory, advocating arson, the procurement of gasoline and instructing firebomb targets, manufacture, lighting & throwing Counseled a break-in of a gun shop to procure weapons and ammunition Advocated the "Chicago strategy" of firebombing buildings, then ambushing responding firemen and policemen Planned, directed, and led an aborted firebombing of Mike’s on 2/5/71 (the night Lum’s burned) and the successful firebombing of Mike’s on 2/6/71 Furnished guns to Hall and to others and Hall fired at emergency personnel on 2/6/71 Hall implicated the 9 others as being in Gregory on 2/6/71
Stroud promised Hall immunity from prosecution for this and other crimes for his testimony against the Ten. Stroud reneged and Hall went to jail anyway. From there, he wrote to Ann Sheppard, threatening her life. Hall later recanted his testimony.
In 1977 Amnesty International adopted the Wilmington Ten’s cause for justice.
President Carter’s Human Rights Initiatives sparked renewed interest in the Wilmington Ten.
Drew S. Days, Carter’s Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, wrote an 89 page “friend of the court” brief that supported the defense’s contention that the Ten were denied due process based on the prosecutor’s handling of witnesses, his refusal to submit to the defense Hall’s corrected statement (which no one has ever seen), and his failure to disclose Hall’s psychiatric evaluation from his October 1971 stay at Cherry Hospital. National and international outcry finally caused Governor James Hunt to release all Ten. Their convictions were overturned, but they were not exonerated.
Rallies were held at many U.S. embassies, around the world. Chavis received bags of mail from many groups in other countries, including Cuba, and he was interviewed by the Soviet Union’s Tass news agency.
Among the signers of the petition to President Carter: Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Harry Belefonte, Edward Asner, Norman Mailer, Dr. Benjamin Spock and 68 members of the U.S. House.
The 1978 Appeal Concluded: “The record is clear that when counsel sought to explore with Hall his initial denial of special treatment, that line of questioning was prohibited. It is true that some minor instances of special treatment had been made known to the jury from other testimony of Hall, but the amenities of his incarceration, his visits home, the visit of his girlfriend, and above all the decision not to punish him for his attack on his guard were all withheld from the jury. To a lesser extent, the same is true with respect to Mitchell. As we have shown, these witnesses, especially Hall, were crucial to North Carolina's case, and the case rested on the jury's determination of their credibility. Accordingly, the judgment of the district court is reversed, and the consolidated cases are remanded with directions to grant the relief prayed. REVERSED AND REMANDED. ”
The 35 th Anniversary of the Wilmington Ten events was commemorated at Gregory Church in 2006. Security was tight.
Democratic Governor, Beverly Perdue, signed a full pardon of innocence on January 1, 2013, 150 years and 1 day after the Emancipation Proclamation. Democratic Governor, Beverly Perdue, signed a full pardon of innocence on January 1, 2013, 150 years and 1 day after the Emancipation Proclamation. The pardon came about after years of petitioning, hundreds of thousands of signatures, thousands of letters in favor, and new evidence that the arson at Mike’s was committed by someone else. The pardon came about after years of petitioning, hundreds of thousands of signatures, thousands of letters in favor, and new evidence that the arson at Mike’s was committed by someone else.
D. A. Ben David found Jay Stroud’s jury deliberation notes in a box in a closet in the D.A.’s office and gave them to Tim Tyson, a Duke U. historian and author of Radio Free Dixie and Blood Done Sign My Name. You can’t make this stuff up.
https://store.kobobooks.com/en- US/ebook/triumphant-warrior https://store.kobobooks.com/en- US/ebook/triumphant-warrior You can read Wayne Moore’s account of the events for $0.99 from the web page above.