Exclusive showing of Pardons of Innocence: Wilmington Ten documentary

MIKE McGEE | 3/5/2018, 2:30 a.m.
Screening of the documentary Pardons of Innocence: The Wilmington Ten, produced by writer-producer Cash Michaels, was held at the African ...
On May 17, 2011, attorneys for the seven survivors and the families of the three deceased Wilmington Ten members, along with members of the National Newpaper Publishers Association, pose after an announcement that the group filed a petition for individual pardons of innocence with the Governor’s Office of Executive Clemency. John Davis

The Dallas Examiner

Screening of the documentary Pardons of Innocence: The Wilmington Ten, produced by writer-producer Cash Michaels, was held at the African American Museum in celebration of Black History Month, Feb. 3. The film, which examines the efforts and imprisonment of a group of nonviolent civil rights activists in North Carolina during the 1970s, was highlighted by a visit from Rev. Benjamin Chavis Jr., one of the guiding voices of the protestors.

“Many of you might not know about The Wilmington Ten story,” announced Mollie Belt, publisher of The Dallas Examiner, who helped bring the film to Dallas – along with Dr. Harry Robinson, founder of the museum. “But there were 10 youngsters, high school students and Dr. Chavis who was sent there by the church to help lead them. Dr. Chavis and the other young men were incarcerated…” along with a lone White mother who believed that equal education and solutions to poverty should have been available to everyone.

“It is the only recorded ... coup d’état in America. It was a coup d’état. Some peoples in power, they get thrown out of power violently,” voiced the Chavis as he introduced the film, pointing out that in 1898 both Black and White elected officials who worked together in Wilmington were forced out of their positions, and out of town, during what Chavis described as “a race massacre.”

Furthermore, the Black-owned Wilmington Daily Record newspaper office was burned to the ground as White citizens determined to keep segregation in place took control of the city.

As the documentary explored Wilmington’s history it examined the city’s more recent sociopolitical cultural model that has survived well into the 1960s and 1970s, even as schools and similar public institutions were being forced to integrate. Chavis voiced that the events of 1971 actually began when that White mob rule changed the institutions, and the course, of the city.

Despite the separate-but-equal doctrine forcibly kept in place for approximately a century, Black Wilmington was able to rebuild under their own collective power. Eventually another Black newspaper sprang up, and Black schools were some of the best in the state due to dedicated teachers and parents.

The publisher of The Wilmington Journal, Thomas Jervey, was an advocate for the group and often gave them a voice in his newspaper.

“It’s very seldom that we have a true story that is caught on film, with the actual people involved in this story,” the reverend noted. “This is Black History Month and I tell people all the time the best way to celebrate Black history, is to make some more history. And to make sure our young people know what our travails, what our struggles, what our progress, what our achievements, and sometimes the hurdles that we have to overcome, to be successful.”

The 10 - Chavis, Ann Shepard, Connie Tindall, Wayne Moore, Jerry Jacobs, Marvin Patrick, James McKoy, Wille Earl Vereen, Reginald Epps and William Wright Jr. – were mostly between that ages of 18 and 21, eight of them high school students. Their sentences ranged between 15 and 31 years on arson and various conspiracy charges despite the not guilty pleas from the group members.