When I was 19, a prosecutor framed me and nine other civil rights activists for firebombing a building in Wilmington, NC. We were dubbed the Wilmington Ten, convicted by a jury that included multiple KKK members, and sentenced to 29 years in prison.
At nineteen, I had dreams of becoming a lawyer or running for office. But when I was released on parole eight years after my conviction, I was shunned by my community and had trouble finding enough work to get by. Worst of all, after being away for so long, my children no longer trusted me.
I’ll never get back what I lost — nor will the other nine people who were wrongly imprisoned. But we deserve to be officially declared innocent. The governor of North Carolina will issue her last pardons over the next two weeks, before she leaves office. I started a petition on Change.org asking Governor Perdue to reverse the injustice that tore our lives apart and pardon the members of the Wilmington Ten. Will you sign my petition?
The Wilmington Ten were working together in 1971 to integrate public schools in our community.
Jay Stroud is the District Attorney responsible for our unjust sentencing. He built his case on the testimony of three convicted felons, all of whom retracted their statements just a few years later. A few weeks ago, the notes he took during the trial were released. They show that Stroud bribed witnesses and tried to recruit a jury with as many white racists as possible — one note next to a jury member read “possibly KKK good.”
I have been fighting against my wrongful conviction for decades, before and after I was released. I have struggled tremendously over the years to overcome the paralyzing effects of being imprisoned for crimes I never committed — but I am determined to clear my name.
Governors usually issue pardons during their last week in office, and with North Carolina’s governor set to leave at the end of the year, this could be our last chance to get a pardon and send a message to the entire country that this injustice will not be tolerated.
The city of Wilmington has already apologized. It is now time for the state of North Carolina to do the same by granting The Wilmington Ten a full pardon of innocence. Please sign my petition today and urge Governor Perdue to pardon me and the other members of the Wilmington Ten.
Thank you for your help.
- NAACP: Notes show prejudice in Wilmington 10 case (myfox8.com)
- Groups petition Perdue for pardons (newsobserver.com)
- Wilmington 10: NAACP Unveils New Evidence Seeking Pardon (huffingtonpost.com)