Today, the spirit of justice was awakened in the Capitol of North Carolina. Gov. Beverly Perdue signed a Pardon of Innocence for nine men and one woman known as the “Wilmington 10.” These young people were nonviolent protesters fighting for educational equality. They were framed, wrongfully convicted and incarcerated in connection to a fire bombing in Wilmington, N.C., over 40 years ago. These unjust convictions were due to a racist manipulation of the court system and extraordinary and blatantly racially motivated prosecutorial misconduct. A federal court overturned these convictions over 30 years ago, but until today, North Carolina had fallen short. In the last few days of her governorship, Gov. Perdue has walked us into a season of epiphany.
In this season, North Carolina has finally had a revelation, and with this revelation comes a continued need for redemption and repentance from the stain of injustice. Not only will the civil rights and human rights communities honor this act, but history itself will record this day as groundbreaking. On the eve of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Gov. Perdue has proclaimed a contemporary emancipation for these freedom fighters, Benjamin Chavis, Connie Tindall, Marvin Patrick, Wayne Moore, Reginald Epps, Jerry Jacobs, James McKoy, Willie Earl Vereen, William Wright Jr. and Ann Shepard, whose fight for justice will never be forgotten. These pardons are not only for North Carolina but also for the nation and for the world. We honor the governor’s noble, courageous and righteous decision today, and we commend her heart’s steadfast commitment to justice.
Special thanks are extended to the National Newspaper Publishers Association, the Wilmington Journal, attorney James Ferguson, Ms. Carolyn Q. Coleman, attorney Irving Joyner, attorney Al McSurely, Mr. Cash Michaels, Ms. Mary Thatch, Dr. Timothy Tyson, officers and members of the NAACP and the thousands of persons who signed petitions, prayed and pushed for this dream to become reality.
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.