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Wilmington Ten Pardons: Black Press at its Best

George E. Curry | 1/9/2013, 1:46 p.m.

After taking up the cause of the Wilmington Ten, NNPA newspapers gave prominent display to stories written about the case by Cash Michaels, editor of the Wilmington Journal, and distributed to member papers by the NNPA News Service. Through talent and dogged persistence, neither Cash nor his publisher, Mary Alice Thatch, would let the campaign for pardons stall.

One blockbuster story began: "In an extraordinary discovery, the 40-year-old case files of the prosecuting attorney in the two 1972 Wilmington Ten criminal trials not only document how he sought to impanel, according to his own written jury selection notes, mostly White 'KKK' juries to guarantee convictions, but also to keep Black men from serving on both juries."

Michaels story continued, "The prosecutor chose, in his own words, 'Uncle Tom' types to serve on the jury, it was disclosed. The files of Assistant New Hanover County District Attorney James 'Jay' Stroud Jr. also document how he plotted to cause a mistrial in the first June 1972 Wilmington Ten trial because there were 10 Blacks and two Whites on the jury, his star false witness against the Ten was not cooperating, and it looked very unlikely that he could win the case, given the lack of evidence."

Without Michaels' exceptional reporting and the national exposure, many of the facts about the Wilmington Ten injustice would still remain unknown - and Gov. Perdue would not have pardoned the civil rights activists.

This was the Black Press at its best.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.