Members of the Wilmington 10, the NAACP and the National Newspapers Publishers Association held a press conference on the State Capitol grounds Thursday to announce a petition for pardon of innocence.
The Wilmington 10 were a group of nine African-Americans and one white woman who protested segregation and education inequality in 1972. The group was wrongly prosecuted and convicted for the firebombing of Mike's Grocery, a white-owned store in Wilmington.
All members of the Wilmington 10 were sentenced to a total of 242 years in prison. They served up to 8 years and their case garnered worldwide attention, including being featured in a segment on the CBS News' program "60 Minutes" in 1977.
The U.S. Fourth Circuit of Appeals overturned their convictions in 1980.
Six of the living members were able to attend the event Thursday morning, along with family members of the deceased.
Rev. Benjamin Chavis, the leader of the group, told the audience, "we had some of the best attorneys, but 40 years ago, even having the truth on your side wasn't enough."
In an effort to set the record straight, the N.C. Conference of the NAACP delivered a letter of petition to pardon the Wilmington 10 to Gov. Bev Perdue's desk.
"Governor Perdue is a good woman, and we want her to do a good deed," Chavis said, referring to the passing of the petition.
If granted, a pardon of innocence can be followed by financial compensation by the state.
"First things first," Attorney James Ferguson said, regarding whether the Wilmington 10 will receive compensation. "One step at a time, and then further steps will be considered."