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The Wilmington 10 and Firebombing of Mike’s Grocery

February 6, 2015

NC

This Day in North Carolina History

The 'Wilmington 10' in 1976. Image from the Associated Press. The ‘Wilmington 10’ in 1976. Image from the Associated Press.

On February 6, 1971, Mike’s Grocery, a mom-and-pop store in Wilmington, was firebombed and burned. It’s unclear who was responsible for the arson, which came after a week of increasing racial tension and violence over the desegregation of the city’s high schools.

Demanding fairer treatment and a black studies curriculum, black high school students, led by civil rights activist Ben Chavis, began a boycott of classes in late January 1971. The protesters established headquarters at a local church, which became the epicenter of violence after the school board rejected their demands. A racist organization attacked the church in drive-by shootings, and gunfire and arson ensued in the area. Police killed a student protester, and a white supremacist was killed as he took aim at the church.

About a year later local and state authorities, intent on punishing Chavis, arrested…

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