Interview with Ben Chavis

OK. so give me the sense of what you'd been doing in going into Wilmington.


Well, I was first sent to Wilmington, North Carolina in 1971 by the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice. I had been a field organizer for the Church; prior to that, I was an SCLC staff member, Dr. King's organization, working in the late sixties, primarily in North Carolina. The Church sent me to Wilmington in '71 to respond to the racial violence that had been committed on Black students attempting to go to school. And, as a result, ah, I began to organize in that community and a riot occurred in February of '71, ah, in which the National Guard had to come in to quell the riot. And as a result of that situation, the Church decided to let me stay in Wilmington for a whole year to organize around voter registration, around organizing students who had been expelled from school, and making a challenge to the local forces of racism. 'Cause one of the things that happens in the early seventies is that a lot of the repression, ah, that ended up the struggle in the late sixties began to really be felt at many local levels. And people were fighting back at local levels and grassroots organizing. And Wilmington was the place, ah, up to 1971, through 1972, that we were making this grassroots challenge to the local forces that were aided and abetted by the national forces of racism in this country.