Tonight the Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project holds a faith rally at St. Stephen’s AME Church in Wilmington. It’s the latest in a series of events to build local and national support to secure pardons of innocence for the Wilmington Ten.
The faith rally will feature keynote speaker Reverend William Barber, president of the state conference of the NAACP. Some members of the Wilmington Ten will also be in attendance. Forty years ago, ten civil rights activists were convicted of charges stemming from the February 1971 fire bombing of a white-owned grocery store during the height of racial violence in Wilmington. All were sentenced to a total of 282 years in prison, part of which they served until 1980, when the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned their sentences.
In May, two attorneys for project filed papers formally asking Governor Bev Perdue to grant pardons of innocence on the seven surviving and three deceased members of the Wilmington Ten. The rally is the official kickoff for the project’s national petition drive.
The Faith Community Rally will be held Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at St. Stephen’s A.M.E. Church at 501 Red Cross Street in Wilmington.