Wilmington 10 Collection
Scope and Contents
This collection is composed largely of textual materials documenting the Wilmington 10 from the office of Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ in Burlington, North Carolina. It is arranged alphabetically by type of material into six series, then chronologically within each series, where applicable. The series are: Correspondence; Financial Documents; Legal Documents; Literary Productions; Minutes; Printed Material. These materials range in date from 1971 to 1998, with the bulk of the collection dating from 1972 to 1978.
This collection would be an excellent source for those interested in the United Church of Christ’s involvement in the Wilmington 10, and the internal dissension such support created within the denomination, especially within North Carolina. Other researchers interested in government intervention in the legal proceedings, public reaction to the case, and the events of the case in general will also be well served by this collection.
The bulk of the letters and memos in the Correspondence series document conflict within the UCC, as individual congregations protested the church’s support for the Wilmington 10. Letters between Southern Conference Minister Dr. Lightbourne and UCC executives, in addition to Dr. Lightbourne’s pastoral letters to his constituency, demonstrate his middleman role in negotiating this conflict. The Literary Productions series includes essays and manuscripts providing histories of the case sympathetic to the Wilmington 10 (4:1-4:2), as well as plans from the Commission for Racial Justice for a “national education and mobilization campaign” to increase public support (4:3) and a number of resolutions from various churches and other groups regarding the Wilmington 10 (4:5-4:6). The Printed Material series is by far the largest series, mainly on account of the many newspaper clippings that were saved by the Southern Conference documenting the Wilmington 10 (6:22-6:39). In addition to these clippings, the highlights of this series are newsletters from the Commission for Racial Justice and its Criminal Justice program following the Wilmington 10 (6:9-6:19), as well as several press releases from the UCC Office of Communication announcing the UCC’s official positions as the case unfolded (6:44-6:48).
The Financial Documents, Legal Documents, and Minutes series are the smallest in the collection. Additional information about each of these series and others in the collection can be found below in the Detailed Description of the Collection (Series Note). The materials in this collection were originally acquired in March 2007 as part of a rather large collection of archival records from the Southern Conference office located in Elon, North Carolina. Materials relating to the Wilmington 10 were already boxed together when the transfer was made, thus it was decided to formally arrange these materials as their own collection. Any other materials relating to the Wilmington 10 that are found at a later date will be filed with the original Southern Conference/UCC church collection.
- 1971 - 2013
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research.
The nature of the Archives and Special Collections of Belk Library means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The Archives and Special Collections of Belk Library claims only physical ownership of most materials. The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to the U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research of otherwise should be fully credited with the source.
Biographical / Historical
In Wilmington, North Carolina, the long-delayed desegregation of public schools during the 1969-1970 school year strained race relations in the city. By late January 1971, African American students announced a boycott of city schools. A field organizer for the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, Ben Chavis, was sent to Wilmington to coordinate the boycott.
As tensions in the city mounted, a number of arson attempts were made on downtown businesses. On the night of February 6, 1971, Mike's Grocery, a white-owned grocery store in a predominately black neighborhood, was firebombed. Snipers on the roof of the nearby Gregory Congregational Church, where Chavis was headquartered, shot at firemen and policemen arriving to the scene. Two people were killed and several injured during the hostilities which ensued. In their 1972 trial, the group which came to be known as the "Wilmington 10"-nine black men (including Chavis) and one white woman-were convicted on charges of arson and conspiracy to fire upon firemen and police officers, and sentenced to a combined 282 years in prison.
Following this ruling, a number of conflicting reports about the events of February 6, 1971, and the questionable prosecution of the original trial circulated, and many believed the Wilmington 10 to be political prisoners unjustly held for their beliefs, not their actions. After higher courts refused to grant the Wilmington 10 a new trial, North Carolina Governor James B. Hunt declined to pardon the Wilmington 10 but did reduce their sentences. In 1980, the Fourth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals overturned the conviction and freed the Wilmington 10.
During the trial and appeals process, the Executive Council of the United Church of Christ threw its support behind UCC employee Chavis and his fellow defendants, financing their bail and legal defense and publicly pronouncing their innocence. This prompted a great deal of dissension within the denomination, as several predominately white UCC churches within the Southern Conference withheld money from national UCC mission funds and threatened to secede from the UCC. Meanwhile, the Executive Council and Commission for Racial Justice continued to support the Wilmington 10. Much of this collection from the Southern Conference headquarters documents this internecine struggle.
Please consult the list below for additional information regarding people involved with the Wilmington 10 incident.
The Wilmington 10:
* Ben Chavis: field organizer for the Commission for Racial Justice; later became executive director of the Commission for Racial Justice and executive director of the NAACP
* Reginald Epps
* Jerry Jacobs
* James "Bun" McKoy
* Wayne Moore
* Marvin "Chili" Patrick
* Anne Shepard: VISTA anti-poverty worker
* Connie Tindall * Willie Earl Vereen
* William "Joe" Wright Jr.
Other individuals involved who appear in this collection:
* Griffin Bell: United States attorney general, 1977-1979
* Charles E. Cobb: executive director, Commission for Racial Justice
* Jack Cozort: legal counsel to Governor James B. Hunt
* Luther M. Cromartie: mayor of Wilmington, 1969-1972
* Rufus Edmisten: North Carolina attorney general
* James Ferguson: attorney representing the Wilmington 10
* George Fountain: North Carolina Superior Court judge, presided at 1977 post-conviction hearing for Wilmington 10, denied request for new trial
* Allen Hall: witness for the prosecution in the 1972 trial; later recanted his testimony
* James Holshouser: governor of North Carolina, 1973-1977
* James B. Hunt: lieutenant governor of North Carolina, 1973-1977; governor of North Carolina, 1977-1985 and 1993-2001
* Irv Joyner: director of the Criminal Justice Program, Commission for Racial Justice
* James H. Lightbourne Jr.: conference minister, Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ; Elon alum (class of 1942)
* Jerome Mitchell: witness for the prosecution in the 1972 trial; later recanted his testimony
* Marilyn A. Moore: assistant to the executive director, Commission for Racial Justice
* James W. Morrison: associate conference minister, Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ
* Robert V. Moss: United Church of Christ president, 1969-1976
* Avery D. Post: United Church of Christ president, 1977-1989
* John T. Redmond: attorney for the United Church of Christ, assisted in representing Chavis and the Wilmington 10
* James T. "Jay" Stroud: New Hanover county assistant district attorney and prosecutor in 1972 Wilmington 10 trial
* Eugene Templeton: pastor of Gregory Congregational Church (UCC) in Wilmington at the time of the February 1971 riots
* Leon White: director, North Carolina-Virginia field office, Commission for Racial Justice
Godwin, John L. (2000.) Black Wilmington and the North Carolina Way: Portrait of a Community in the Era of Civil Rights Protest. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America.
Graham, Nicholas. (2005.) "This Month in North Carolina History: The Wilmington Ten." Retrieved September 23, 2008 from http://www.lib.unc.edu/ncc/ref/nchistory/feb2005/index.html
1 Linear Feet (1 Archival box)
Language of Materials
The Wilmington 10 were a group of nine black men and one white woman who were controversially convicted on charges of arson and conspiracy after a racially-motivated 1971 riot in Wilmington, North Carolina. The leader of the group, Benjamin Chavis, was then employed as a community organizer for the United Church of Christ's Commission for Racial Justice. During the trial and appeals process, the Wilmington 10 received significant financial and legal support from the UCC. Largely consisting of textual materials, this collection is divided into six series: Correspondence; Financial Documents; Legal Documents; Literary Productions; Minutes; Printed Material. These materials range in date from 1971 to 2013, with the bulk of the collection dating from 1972 to 1978. This collection would be an excellent source for those interested in the United Church of Christ's involvement with the Wilmington 10, and the internal dissension such support created within the denomination, especially within North Carolina. Other researchers interested in government intervention in the legal proceedings, public reaction to the case, and the events of the case in general will also be well served by this collection.
The collection is arranged alphabetically by type of material into six series, then chronologically within each series, where applicable. The series are: Correspondence; Financial Documents; Legal Documents; Literary Productions; Minutes; Printed Material.
The collection is located in the Carol Grotnes Belk Library Archives and Special Collections at Elon University. Please contact the Archivist and Special Collections Librarian for further details about the location.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift. The materials in this collection were originally acquired in March 2007 as part of a rather large collection of archival records from the Southern Conference office located in Elon, North Carolina. All paper records pertaining to this donation can be found in the Correspondence Legal File under the heading Southern Conference-UCC. Materials relating to the Wilmington 10 were already boxed together when the transfer was made, thus it was decided to formally arrange these materials as their own collection.
Not applicable to this specific collection. The original collection it appeared in from the Southern Conference was accession number 2007.9.1.
Processed by Kristin Shaffer, September, 2008
- African American civil rights workers. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- African Americans--Civil rights--North Carolina Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Chavis, Ben, 1948-
- Race relations. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Riots--North Carolina--Wilmington--History--19th century. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- United Church of Christ--History.
- United Church of Christ. Southern Conference--History.
- Wilmington (N.C.) -- Race relations. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Encoded by Kristin Shaffer, October, 2008
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- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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