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The Wilmington Ten of 1971


This guide identifies collections related to the group of activists known as the Wilmington Ten, who were wrongly convicted of arson and conspiracy during the 1971 school integration protests in Wilmington, N.C. After the desegregation of the local high schools for the 1968-1969 school year, racial tensions between white and Black students reached an all-time high in early 1971 when Black students decided to boycott the schools. On the night of February 6, 1971, violence erupted downtown as members of militant white supremacist groups such as the KKK and the Rights of White People clashed with students. The student protestors were blamed and ten were arrested, convicted, and sentenced to prison. Their case drew national attention and support for their release. After several failed campaigns, their convictions were finally overturned in 1980, though they were not given full pardons until 2012.

Material includes political, legal, and educational documents related to the desegregation of the schools that led to the conflict, first-hand accounts of the events surrounding 1971, oral histories from boycott participants and a member of the Wilmington Ten, and reflections on integration and the Ten in later years. For further information on related Wilmington civil rights history, please refer to the Civil Rights Movement and the Wilmington Coup D'état of 1898 subject guides, linked under the Related Guides tab.