The members were dubbed the "Wilmington Ten" following the February 1971 firebombing of Mike's Grocery in Wilmington and the sniper firing at firemen who were trying putting out the blaze.
Forty years later, the remaining members and their families announced at the State Capitol Thursday that they want Gov. Bev Perdue to issue pardons in order to declare each of them innocent of the crimes.
"We ask her to defend justice, to right a wrong, to remove an ugly cloud that hangs over our heads in Wilmington," Mary Alice Thatch with the Wilmington Journal said.
The activists -- 21-year-old Connie Tindall, 19-year-old Willie Earl Vereen, 19-year-old Marvin Patrick, 34-year-old Anne Shepard Turner, 18-year-old William "Joe" Wright, 18-year-old Wayne Moore, 17-year-old Reginald Epps, 19-year-old Jerry Jacobs, 18-year-old James McKoy and 24-year-old Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis -- were convicted and sentenced to a total of 282 years in prison in 1972.
They all served several years of incarceration before the case against them fell apart thanks to a 1977 CBS' "60 Minutes" exposé. Eventually, in 1980, the U.S. Fourth Circuit of Appeals overturned their convictions.
The federal appeals court determined that their constitutional rights had been violated, and that there was evidence that the "Wilmington Ten" were, in fact, innocent of all charges.
The 10 activists were later freed, but their names have never been officially cleared in North Carolina. Turner, Wright and Jacobs have since passed away.