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The Wilmington Journal has been the region's Black newspaper for decades, now it needs help

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Benjamin Schachtman
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The Wilmington Journal's office in Wilmington's south side.

For 93 years, the Wilmington Journal has served the region’s Black community. Now the Journal is facing severe financial difficulty, even as community groups pitch in to help. WHQR's Ben Schachtman spoke with the family that runs the Journal about its historical importance and its current challenges.

The Wilmington Journal grew out of the Jervay family printing company, founded in 1901 --- just three years after the 1898 coup and massacre destroyed the Daily Record, the state’s first Black owned and operated daily newspaper.

For Paul Jervay, a family spokesperson who has worked in newspapers for years, that’s a major part of the Journal’s importance.

“It really is the bedrock for Black newspapers in the state of North Carolina because the first Black newspaper started in Wilmington, North Carolina --- although it was destroyed in the 1898 massacre -- it still is the birthplace of the Black newspaper in North Carolina.”

Decades later, the Journal would play a leading role in another defining episode of Wilmington’s Black community --- the pardon of the Wilmington 10. These were nine Black men and one white woman who were wrongfully convicted of being involved in a 1971 riot; the violence stemmed from racial tensions that saw white supramacists patrolling the streets, the National Guard called in, and ultimately at least two deaths. The convictions took over a decade to get overturned, but justice -- in the form of a pardon -- took decades more.

Jervay credits the Journal’s current editor, Mary Alice Thatch, with spearheading the effort.

“Well, the Wilmington Journal played an integral part in getting the Wilmington 10 justice in that they virtually single-handedly went out and contacted the then-Governor Beverly Perdue to get a pardon of innocence. It was a Herculean effort.”

Now, like the many print outlets, the Journal is facing financial challenges. A death in the family left a note against the Journal’s office building, which is also in need of serious repairs. 

A fundraising drive is currently underway, with a $95,000 goal that -- while it won’t completely solve the Journal’s financial issues -- will keep the weekly paper up and running.

 

[Find the GoFundMe for the Wilmington Journal here.]

Other organizations have chipped in as well: the New Hanover County NAACP has pledged $1,000 and Linda Thompson, the county’s new chief diversity and equity officer, is exploring grant opportunities. A telethon is also in the works. 

These efforts, and the $24,000 already raised, make Jervay cautiously optimistic.

“So we have an uphill road to climb. I'm heartened to say that we have a number of people in the Wilmington community that are assisting in this effort … it's really a community grassroots effort that is transprising to functionally save the Journal here in Wilmington, North Carolina.”

 

Other ways to contribute to the Wilmington Journal:

 

-Cash App: $SaveJournalbuilding

 

-GoFundMe: Save the Wilmington Journal

 

-Check or Money Order: Make payable to "National Black Leadership Caucus" for "Save the Wilmington Journal" and mail to P.O. BOX 1020, Wilmington, NC 28401