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 Related Special Collections Subject Guides.

Digital Collections

Wilmington 10 Collection - Digital (Elon)

Wilmington Ten materials from the office of Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ in Burlington, North Carolina. The Wilmington Ten were nine young men and a woman, who were wrongfully convicted in 1971 in Wilmington, North Carolina of arson and conspiracy. Most were sentenced to 29 years in prison, and all ten served nearly a decade in jail before an appeal won their release.

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Civil Rights in Southeast North Carolina: The School, the Market, and the Ballot Box

Digital collection of primary source documents and other resources related to southeastern North Carolina school desegregation, equal employment, equal access to public accommodations, and voting rights.

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This digital collection brings together resources related to school desegregation, equal employment, equal access to public accommodations, and voting rights in Southeast North Carolina. Each individual collection described below covers many topics other than desegregation. Materials related to the Wilmington Ten can be found in the Dr. Heyward C. Bellamy Papers.
"Wilmington Ten" newspaper articles

Full-text newspaper articles published about the Wilmington Ten. List of access provided through library website.

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Seahawk Digital Newspaper Collection

"The student paper of UNCW, established 1948." The Seahawk is the student news organization and newspaper of the University of North Carolina Wilmington. It began as a four-page handout with stenciled headlines. In 1958, the Seahawk reemerged as a monthly publication after a five-year period without a student paper. For most of its run, the Seahawk informed students about campus, national and world news along with arts, entertainment, and sports once or twice a week. In 2001 the organization launched its online component:

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Recommended Databases

American Civil Liberties (ACLU) Papers

Drawing from the records of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), it focuses on civil rights, race, gender, and issues relating to the U.S. Supreme Court. The American Civil Liberties Union has throughout its history consistently stood at the center of controversies involving the rights of Americans. Its records offer researchers a unique view of the inner workings of the organization and the hundreds of groups with which the ACLU interacted. 

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Civil Rights and Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century

Features records of NAACP, SCLC, SNCC, CORE, and federal records on the black freedom struggle. Part of the History Vault database.

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Ethnic NewsWatch

Ethnic NewsWatch is a current resource of full-text newspapers, magazines, and journals of the ethnic and minority press, providing researchers access to essential, often overlooked perspectives. The database now also contains Ethnic NewsWatch: A History, which provides historical coverage of Native American, African American, and Hispanic American periodicals from 1959-1989.

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Historic North Carolina Digital Newspaper Collection

Find historical newspapers from across the United States and beyond. Explore newspaper articles and clippings for help with genealogy, history and other research. 5,100+ newspapers from the 1700s–2000s.

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Manuscript Collections

MS 031 Alton A. Lennon Congressional Papers

This collection contains the papers of Congressman Alton Lennon during his tenure as U.S. Representative for North Carolina's 7th congressional district from 1957-1972. Included in the collection is correspondence, reports, and other documents related to legislation, district affairs, and politics during the time. Also included are three large scrapbooks documenting news coverage from Congressman Lennon's career and campaigns.

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MS 046 Dr. Hubert A Eaton, Sr. Papers

This extensive collection includes the original materials and photocopies of the legal actions instituted by Dr. Eaton and his fellow plaintiffs to compel the integration of the fundamental institutions of New Hanover County--the public schools and the hospital--in the 1960s and 1970s. Moreover, the collection also reflects the broad spectrum of Dr. Eaton's interests and activities which included medical and public health issues, education, civil rights and athletics.

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MS 108 Wilmington Movement 1971

This collection contains sixteen original articles from the Wilmington Morning Star and its joint Sunday edition with the Wilmington News, the Star-News (all now merged into the Wilmington Star-News), and two from Raleigh's The News and Observer, chronicling the events leading to and during the racial unrest centering around the integreation of the local high schools in Wilmington, NC.

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MS 153 B. D. Schwartz Scrapbooks

The collection consists of twenty scrapbook albums containing letters, documents, news articles, awards, photos, advertisements, and brochures spanning sixty-seven years. Mr. Schwartz held many local and state offices, including State Representative, State Senator, and Mayor of Wilmington. He was involved in all facets of life in New Hanover County, donating his time to numerous philanthropic and educational organizations, including as Trustee of University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Schwartz Hall, a dormitory on UNCW's campus, was a gift of B.D. and Sylvia Wolk Schwartz.

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MS 161 Dr. James J. Megivern Collection

This collection contains papers and publications of Dr. James J. Megivern, with emphasis on the religious nature of his work.

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MS 167 Dr. Heyward C. Bellamy Collection

The Dr. Heyward C. Bellamy Collection contains court documents and supporting exhibit materials outlining the school integration law suit, Carolyn Eaton, et al v New Hanover County Board of Education. In addition to the original Eaton case, this collection contains documents related to the restraining order the New Hanover County School Board filed against individuals who would later be implicated in the 1971 riots as part of the Wilmington Ten. This case is titled, Carolyn Eaton, et al v New Hanover County Board of Education v Ben Chavis, et al.

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MS 271 Dr. William H. Wagoner Collection

Dr. William H. Wagoner served as the Superintendent of the New Hanover county school system from 1961-1968, as the fourth President of Wilmington College from 1968-1969 and as the first Chancellor of the University of North Carolina Wilmington from 1969-1990. This collection contains correspondence, publications, newspaper clippings, agendas, photographs, maps and ephemera related to the careers of Dr. Wagoner in Wilmington as well as his personal life.

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MS 332 Dr. Walter H. Conser Jr. Papers

This collection consists of the accumulated working papers of professor, historian, and author Dr. Walter Conser Jr. between 1970 and 2014. The collection is comprised primarily of research materials, in English and German, including articles, magazines, newspapers, books in whole or part, and associated notes; also included are publishing documents, personal and professional corresondence, newsletters, serials, memorablia, personal papers, and materials documenting Dr. Walter Conser Jr.'s participation in professional and academic panels, conferences, and events.

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MS 390 Bertha Boykin Todd Papers

This collection contains the papers of Bertha Boykin Todd, a long-time New Hanover County educator and community leader. Content focuses on her work with the 1898 Centennial Foundation, biographical information and research for her memoir, "My Restless Journey," speeches and notes for events at which she spoke, recordings of her media appearances, and articles and correspondence related to her community engagement and work with the New Hanover County School system, highlighting her time as the librarian at Williston High School and as an administrator at Hoggard High School.

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Special Collections Vertical Files

The Special Collections vertical files are compiled by Special Collections staff on an ongoing basis and contain material such as articles, photographs, maps, emphemera, etc. of various persons, places, organizations, and topical subjects related to UNCW and Southeastern North Carolina history.

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Upperman Center Records

University Archives collection. News clippings and subject files pertaining to local history, African American history, and race relations.

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External Primary Source Collections

Wilmington 10 Collection (Elon)

This collection is composed largely of textual materials documenting the Wilmington 10 from the office of Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ in Burlington, North Carolina. It is arranged alphabetically by type of material into six series, then chronologically within each series, where applicable. The series are: Correspondence; Financial Documents; Legal Documents; Literary Productions; Minutes; Printed Material. These materials range in date from 1971 to 1998, with the bulk of the collection dating from 1972 to 1978.

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North Carolina State Archives - Discover Online Catalog (DOC)

Welcome to the Discover Online Catalog (DOC). This website allows researchers to search the public holdings of the State Archives of North Carolina, Outer Banks History Center, and Western Regional Archives in order to identify materials for research and to request copies.

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Welcome to the Discover Online Catalog (DOC). This website allows researchers to search the public holdings of the State Archives of North Carolina, Outer Banks History Center, and Western Regional Archives in order to identify materials for research and to request copies. For Wilmington Ten material, search for "Justice/Attorney General Record Group," which is Record ID 23, then for child records '23.16 Education and Corrections Section: Wilmington Ten Correspondence and Miscellaneous Records File,' and '23.34 Education and Corrections Section: Wilmington Ten Case File.'
Judge George M. Fountain's Wilmington Ten Case File, 1971-1978 (NC State Archives)

The collection includes materials related to the case of State of North Carolina vs. Benjamin F. Chavis et al, dating 1971-1978, such as briefs, transcripts, petitions, judgments, notes and related legal materials created or received by Judge Fountain in discharging his duty to hear the defendants' request for a retrial of the Wilmington Ten case. Additionally, the collection includes a small quantity of materials, chiefly photocopies, related to the case.

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Office of General Counsel, Legal Counsel: Files of Jack Cozort, 1977-1984 (NC State Archives)

Correspondence, reports, memos, studies, and legal briefs relating to a wide array of topics, as handled by the Office of the Legal Counsel. Highlighted topics include the Wilmington Ten, Velma Barfield, UNC vs. HEW, Dixon vs. Heckler, and U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Administration, and a state lawsuit against a re-insurance facility.

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Transcripts in the Case State of North Carolina v. Benjamin Franklin Chavis, Marvin Patrick, Connie Tyndall, et. al (also known as the "The Wilmington Ten Case")

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.

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Star-News Image Archive

In 2008, the StarNews gave the majority of their image archives to the New Hanover County Public Library. The archives consist of 2,600 linear feet of photographs or approximately 150,000 photos. The newspaper divided the images into two collections: "Subjects" and "People Pixs." Most of the photographs were taken from 1975 to 1996; however, there are some earlier images. The photographs are filed alphabetically and there is no overall index. The digital collection is an ongoing project with new images added each year.

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The Wilmington Journal Collection, 1953-1977

This collection contains copies of the local, weekly African-American newspaper, The Wilmington Journal, which was founded in Wilmington, N.C. in 1901. Thirteen digital copies are included here--twelve before the paper's burning in 1971 and one after. The New Hanover County Public Library has microfilmed copies from 1974 to 1982, available at the North Carolina Room of the downtown branch. Original physical copies, from 1983 through the present, are also available at the library.

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Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)

Provides access to millions of images, photographs, manuscripts, books, sounds, and more from libraries, archives, and museums across the U.S.

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The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) offers a single point of access to millions of items—photographs, manuscripts, books, sounds, moving images, and more—from libraries, archives, and museums around the United States. Search for the "Wilmington Ten" to find relevant sources related to this subject.
Southern Oral History Program

This collection, housed in the Southern Historical Collection of the UNC Center for the Study of the American South, contains more than 5,000 oral histories. The Southern Oral History Program Interview Database provides detailed descriptions of the interviews in the Southern Oral History Program Collection. The interviews in this collection were conducted or collected under the auspices of the Southern Oral History Program in the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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This collection, housed in the Southern Historical Collection of the UNC Center for the Study of the American South, contains more than 5,000 oral histories. The Southern Oral History Program Interview Database provides detailed descriptions of the interviews in the Southern Oral History Program Collection. Digital transcripts and audio for many interviews are available through this database created and maintained by the University Library at UNC Chapel Hill. An interview with Benjamin Chavis, one of the Wilmington Ten, can be found in the "U.1. Long Civil Rights Movement: Individual Biographies" series. Four additional interviews of those with contemporary experiences around the event can be found in the "B.2.2. Individual Biographies: Special Focus: Racial Violence in Wilmington, N.C." series.

Government Resources

Government publication articles:

  • "The Wilmington Ten--Starting a Conversation" by Bill Powers and Chris Beddow, NC State Bar Journal, Spring 2022, NC docs print location - M20 7:N557 27/1.

Contains more than 1,200 law and law-related periodicals. Coverage is from the first issue published for all periodicals and goes through the most-currently published issues allowed based on contracts with publishers. Retrieve articles by citation, browse, or search across nearly 50 million pages of content. HeinOnline also contains many useful resources for criminology, and public and international affairs, such as the Congressional Record Bound volumes in entirety, complete coverage of the U.S.

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ProQuest Congressional

Comprehensive online collection of primary source congressional publications and legislative research materials covering all topics, including government, current events, politics, economics, business, science and technology, international relations, social issues, finance, insurance, and medicine. Finding aid for congressional hearings, committee prints, committee reports and documents from 1970-present, and the daily Congressional Record from 1985-present. Compiled legislative histories from 1969-present.

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Official website for U.S. federal legislative information. Provides access to accurate, timely, and complete legislative information for Members of Congress, legislative agencies, and the public. Usually updated the morning after session adjourns.

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Resource provides public access to official publications from the three branches of the U.S. Federal Government.

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Oral Histories

To explore more interviews, please search the Oral History Collection.

Interview with Wayne Moore and Benjamin Wonce (Oral History)

Interview with Wayne Moore and Benjamin Wonce who talk about the events that lead up to the boycott of New Hanover County Schools in February 1971. Both men participated in the boycott. Moore was arrested and was a member of the group known as the Wilmington 10. Wonce was not arrested but testified for the defense at the trial of the Wilmington 10.

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Interview with Heyward C. Bellamy (Oral History)

This 3rd interview with Dr. Bellamy focuses on the integration mandate and impact on the local schools. His memories include HEW, School Board, busing, fire bombings, suspensions, and public input.

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Interview with Gilbert Burnett (Oral History)

In this interview conducted by Sherman Hayes and Michael Haas, Mr. Gilbert H. Burnett reveals the circumstances that led him to practice law and shares anecdotes from his professional history, including his focus on improving the Juvenile Court System and his memories of the Wilmington Ten hearing.

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Interview with Bertha Boykin Todd

Interview with Bertha B. Todd who was the first and last librarian at Williston High School. She discusses her career in education and librarianship in Wilmington, as well as her role in community service and race relations. Following integration and the closing of Williston, she transferred to Hoggard High. Mrs. Todd intervened to prevent riots during integration.

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