Local News

State NAACP to hold annual convention

Posted October 1, 2008 4:14 p.m. EDT
Updated October 1, 2008 5:08 p.m. EDT

— The forced sterilization of poor, black women more than 40 years ago and the Wilmington race riots of 1898 are on the agenda of next week's state NAACP annual convention.

Hundreds of men, women and youth from around the state are expected to attend the 65th annual event, which runs Oct. 9-12 at the North Raleigh Hilton.

"This is a true civil rights convention, and we will have workshops that focus on everything from economics to education to international affairs," said Rev. William Barber, president of the state conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Preceding the convention will be a symbolic pilgrimage by NAACP members who will march from Winston-Salem and Wilmington over a week's time and converge on the State Capitol grounds next Thursday.

Barber said the two cities symbolize events in American history involving blacks that the state has disregarded. The NAACP wants North Carolina lawmakers to move on bills regarding the events or face legal action.

"We would rather not take legal action," Barber said. "But what we cannot do is allow injustice to happen in history or anytime and just be washed over."

In November 1898, armed whites marched through black sections of Wilmington, driving people out and killing some who challenged them. Whites also deposed elected black officials and took control of the city.

A bill has passed in the state House to acknowledge the riot, agreeing that the state government failed to protect the citizens of North Carolina during that time.

A state-sponsored program that ran from the 1930s to the 1970s designed to reduce social problems like poverty and mental illness resulted in the forced sterilization of 7,600 people, including children as young as 11 years old.

Now, state lawmakers are considering a bill to provide compensation to those affected by the program.

"It was a sinister program that deemed women mentally ill and then took away their right to produce without their will," Barber said. "Those women, many of whom are still living, need to be compensated."