Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968, African-American students participated in several demonstrations and school boycotts in Wilmington, North Carolina. To help provide organizational leadership and support for the demonstrating students, the Oxford, North Carolina United Church of Christ sent experienced activist Rev. Benjamin Chavis. Wilmington's Gregory Congregational Church, an African-American Church, became the headquarters of the organizers.
On the night of February 6, 1971, some demonstrators set several firebombs in downtown Wilmington. One firebomb set "Mike's Grocery" ablaze, a white-owned business in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. When firefighters arrived on the scene, they received sniper fire from the roof of the Gregory Congregational Church. Consequently, Wilmington City police officers arrested ten people, nine African-American men and one white woman as follows:
Benjamin Chavis (age 24); Connie Tindall (age 21); Marvin "Chili" Patrick (age 19); Wayne Moore (age 19); Reginald Epps (age 18); Jerry Jacobs (age 19); James "Bun" McKoy (age 19); Willie Earl Vereen (age 18); William "Joe" Wright, Jr. (age 19); and Ann Shepard (age 35).
State prosecutors charged the nine men with two crimes: (1) Conspiracy to assault emergency personnel, police officers, and firemen with deadly weapons. (2) Burning the building housing Mike's Grocery at 602 S. 6th Street in Wilmington. Authorities charged Mrs. Shepard with being an accessory before the fact to the burning of the building.
On September 11, 1972, the North Carolina Superior Court Division in Burgaw, North Carolina began hearing the case of - State of North Carolina v. Benjamin Franklin Chavis, Marvin Patrick, Connie Tyndall, et. al; popularly known as "The Wilmington Ten Case." A twelve-person jury made up of both African-American and white jurors found all of the members of the "Wilmington Ten" guilty of the charges on October 17, 1972, and sentenced the defendants to various terms of imprisonment between 15 and 34 years.
The State of North Carolina paroled the last of the group, Benjamin Chavis, in December 1979. In December of 1980, the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals overturned the convictions against the "Wilmington Ten." These records consist of complete copies of the transcript of Probable Cause Hearing and Jury Selection; and State Trial Transcript of Testimony in The Wilmington Ten Case.
Note: some pages may be missing from the transcript since the Division's file copy is not complete.
Probable Cause Hearing
- Part1; Part2; Part3; Part4; Part5; Part6; Part7; Part8; Part9; Part10; Part11; Part12; Part13; Part14;
- Volume 1
- part1; part2; part3; part4; part5; part6; part7; part8; part9; part10; part11; part12; part13; part14; part15; part16; part17; part18; part19; part20;
- Volume 2
- part1; part2; part3; part4; part5; part6; part7; part8; part9; part10; part11; part12; part13; part14; part15; part16; part17; part18; part19; part20; part21;
- Volume 3
- part1; part2; part3; part4; part5; part6; part7; part8;
- Volume 4
- part1; part2; part3; part4;
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NOTE: Approximately 90% of the subcategory of Historical Civil Rights Division records contained within the Division's Electronic Reading Room comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. To the extent that any documents do not currently comply because of the poor quality of the over 35-year-old documents, the Division is applying its available resources in an effort to create alternative records that are readable.
Because some of these document collections are large, they have been broken into groups of approximately 50 pages in order to speed up transfer.