MARY ALICE JERVAY THATCH
OBIT FOR MARY ALICE THATCH
The Black Press and African-American community have lost a legendary leader, fighter and advocate for human rights, civil rights, and justice. Indeed, one of her most successful efforts made worldwide news.
Mary Alice Jervay Thatch, the third generation editor and publisher of The Wilmington Journal, died December 28th at the age of 78.
Mrs. Thatch was the proud daughter of publisher Thomas C. Jervay, Sr., and granddaughter of founder R.S. Jervay, a Black printer who started The Journal originally as the Cape Fear Journal in 1927.
“T.C.” Jervay, as her father was known as, made The Journal a centerpiece of the civil rights struggle in Wilmington “without fear or favor,” so much so that in 1973, a white supremacist firebombed the paper because it supported ten falsely criminally accused activists known as the Wilmington Ten.
Thatch would proudly tell how even being firebombed could not “run Daddy out of town” or stop the next edition.
“That was the power of the Black Press,” said the woman who grew up at the Journal from the time she was a baby.
Mrs. Thatch, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Elizabeth City State University, and a Master’s Degree from UNC-Greensboro before going into teaching, took over as Journal editor/publisher in 1996. Under her leadership, the paper continued its tradition of being a strong voice for Wilmington’s African-American community with incisive reporting, and straight-forward editorials demanding justice for African-Americans, challenging the Wilmington/New Hanover County and North Carolina power structures, and maintaining, long, long before it was fashionable, that Black lives DO matter!
“The first African American paper in the country was Freedom’s Journal,” Thatch one said. “The first line read something like ‘we are here to plead our own cause.’ That will always be the mission of the Black Press: to fulfill the needs of the community we serve.”
She was tough on those who worked with her, because Mrs Thatch believed thoroughly in two things - the high standards set by her father in serving the community, and the belief that the African-American community always deserved the very best in effort and results. She was a visionary who saw The Journal doing greater and greater things to serve the community, all the while fighting growing economic pressures that threatened to close her doors.
That didn’t stop her for using the paper to stand for voting rights, and demand that both the Democratic and Republican parties fairly patronize the Black Press with their advertising during election seasons. Thatch also led North Carolina Black Press in pushing voter registration, believing the Black voter empowerment was a key to freedom.
But it was in 2011 when Mrs. Thatch convinced the National Newspaper Publishers Association, of which she was a member and her father formerly led, to advocate for North Carolina to pardon the Wilmington Ten, the ten NC civil rights activists falsely convicted of firebombing a white-owned grocery store in 1971.
All ten, including leader Rev. Ben Chavis, were sentenced to over 200 years in prison and had spent the last forty years with the false convictions attached to their names.
In 2012, Mrs. Thatch led a team of black journalists, attorneys and activists in uncovering proof that the Ten were originally framed. She also led a campaign that garnered over 150,000 petition signatures asking then Gov. Beverly Perdue to grant pardons of innocence to the Ten.
On Dec. 31st, 2012, as the last thing before she left office, Gov. Perdue indeed issued ten pardons of innocence to the Wilmington Ten, thus clearing their names.
The official act cleared their names, and made worldwide news.
But it all started with the unmatched determination of a single Black newspaper publisher.
Mary Alice Thatch was honored as Publisher of the Year by the NNPA the following year, in the finest tradition of Black Press advocacy.
Mrs. Thatch was serving as the president of the North Carolina Black Publishers Association at the time of her death. She was also a past board member of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), and past board member and secretary of the National Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation.
“On behalf of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, we extend our heartfelt condolences to …the family of our beloved NNPA publisher and leader, Mary Alice Jervay Thatch (RIP),” said Rev. Ben Chavis, now president of the NNPA in a statement. “We will always fervently uphold her legacy and contribution to the Black Press of America and especially her leadership of the North Carolina Black Press Association (NCBPA). God bless.”
“She lived a gigantic meaningful life and was certainly a voice for Wilmington,” said attorney and NCCU Law Professor Irving Joyner. “It is not an understatement to loudly proclaim that she spoke “truth to power” and did it in an unflinching manner.”
P.R. Jervay, Jr., NCBPA Media Services said, “Mary Alice’s strength, commitment, and dedication to organization with a purpose was an inspiration to her fellow African-American publishers around the state.”
Mary Alice Jervay Thatch leaves to cherish her memory, a devoted husband, Rev. John L. Thatch, three daughters, Robin Thatch Johnson, Shawn Thatch, and Johanna Thatch-Briggs, along with a host of family and friends.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time.
2021: ANOTHER YEAR
OF BLACK STRUGGLE
By Cash Michaels
The year 2021 saw dramatic changes and events for African-Americans and the nation in the wake of the ongoing COVID -19 pandemic, controversial 2020 presidential elections, and the January 6th siege on the U.S. Capitol. Indeed, ominous signs began to appear suggesting that there will be be even tougher challenges ahead, especially for Black America.
These are the stories that appeared on the pages of North Carolina’s Black Press.
The New Year began with Black NC Democratic Congressional members joining many others in condemning then Pres. Donald Trump for his efforts to overturn the November 2020 presidential election, which he lost to former Vice President Joe Biden.
There was confusion and concern about people getting their initial vaccines to protect against the coronavirus, and vaccine availability.
North Carolinians flocked to Georgia to help elect the state’s first Black U.S. senator, Rev. Raphael Warnock.
North Carolina and the world were stunned when then President Donald Trump held a “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington D.C., that turns into a pre-planned attack on the U.S. Capitol in an effort to stop Congress from certifying the November 2020 presidential results. Five people, including Capitol police officers, are killed in the melee.
U.S. Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC-12) tells how she was trapped, along with several other congresspeople, in a room during the mob violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6th. Rep. Adams called it “frightening.”
Her Black Democratic colleague, Congressman G. K. Butterfield (D-NC-1) also recalled the Jan. 6th siege, and said how he was concerned about security during the upcoming presidential inauguration of Joe Biden.
Bishop William Barber, co-convener of the national Poor People’s Campaign, calls on the new Congress to pass the $15 per hour minimum wage law.
A black Pender County family filed a lawsuit against a white New Hanover County deputy who allegedly led an angry white mob to their home in May 2020, looking for a missing family member. That former deputy was later found innocent during a criminal trial, and sued the Black mother and her teenage son for defamation. A press time, that suit was still pending.
NC Dept. of Health and Human Services apologizes for statewide delays in COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
Reports emerge that the first Black female chief justice of the NC Supreme Court Cheri Beasley, who lost a razor-thin November 2020 election, would soon announce her 2022 candidacy for the U.S. Senate.
Black Republican NC Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, elected during the November 2020 elections, draws fire for saying that “the system of government that we have in this nation is not systematically racist,” and to say or teach otherwise is “being divisive, promoting left-wing ideology, and indoctrinating our students within public schools.”
NC NAACP Pres. Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman leads an effort to convince African-Americans across the state that it is safe to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The NC Board of Education passes controversial new social studies standards for North Carolina public schools that addresses historic racial and sexual discrimination more clearly.
North Carolina Congressional Democrats blast the U.S. Senate for it’s failure to convict former Pres. Donald Trump after he had been impeached by the U.S. House for his role in the Jan. 6th Capitol siege.
Bishop William Barber expresses concern about President Biden backtracking on his support for the $15.00 per hour minimum wage hike.
Asst. U.S. Attorney Dena J. King stands to be nominated as the first Black woman to become U.S. attorney for the North Carolina Western District.
St. Augustine’s University announces the appointment of Dr. Christine Johnson McPhail as its 13th president.
Darrell Allison overcomes alumni opposition to become chancellor of Fayetteville State University.
U.S. Rep. Alma Adams urges passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, and eulogizes the death of veteran civil rights attorney Vernon Jordan.
Glenn McNeil, commander of the NC Highway Patrol, retires.
Bishop William Barber and NCDHHS Sec. Mandy Cohen get vaccinated against COVID-19 in an effort to persuade more North Carolinians to get the shot.
As the trial for the Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd began, the City Council there voted to award a record $27 million to the family of the slain Black man, who was born near Fayetteville, NC. The George Floyd Memorial Foundation says it will use part of the money for education purposes.
Supporters seek a pardon of innocence for Dontae Sharpe, a formerly incarcerated Black man falsely sentenced to prison for a murder he didn’t commit.
NC Gov. Roy Cooper says he will not leave office early in 2022 to run for the U.S. Senate because he does not want controversial Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson running the state.
State Democratic lawmakers file bill to remove literacy requirements from the North Carolina Constitution.
Gov. Cooper eases COVID-19 restrictions across the state.
NC civil rights leaders brace for new Republican Party voter suppression efforts.
Former state inmate Ronnie Long says he was “cheated” by the state not paying him adequately in restitution for the years he erroneously spent in prison, and files a lawsuit.
Bishop Barber says North Carolina should prepare to fight for voting rights again.
North Carolina joins the world in hailing the manslaughter conviction of the Minneapolis police officer who murdered George Floyd.
Vice Pres. Kamala Harris visits North Carolina to tout the Biden Administration’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan.
NC Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson decides not to run for the U/S. Senate.
Former NC Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley announces 2022 candidacy for U.S. Senate.
Apple announces it will build $1 billion campus in Research Triangle Park
North Carolina gains one congressional seat in 2020 U.S. Census.
Pasquotank County deputies gun down unarmed Black man Andrew Brown Jr. in his driveway.
Gov. Cooper gives pardon of innocence to Darryl Anthony Howard.
Three Black historic sites are added by NC Dept. of Cultural and Natural Resources.
NC Republican lawmakers move to outlaw critical race theory in NC public schools, without knowing what it is.
The district attorney of Pasquotank County says the deputies were justified in the April 21st shooting death of unarmed Andrew Brown, Jr. because he was using his car as a weapon. Brown’s family disagrees. Civil rights leaders ask for a full “pattern and practice” investigation into both the sheriff’s department and the district attorney’s office.
A federal jury awards two falsely accused African-American half brothers $75 million dollars who were falsely convicted of a 1983 rape and murder of an 11 year-old girl in Red Springs.
Republican state lawmakers across the country begin passing laws against teaching about the nation’s racist past.
UNC School of Journalism announces that it has hired Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, author of the controversial 1619 Project, as a tenured professor. Conservatives balk, and the tenure offer is withdrawn. Hannah-Jones’ attorneys demand that the UNC -Chapel Hill Trustee Board resolve the issue, or face a lawsuit.
Rep. Zack Hawkins (D-Durham) introduces bill to allocate additional funding to the state’s UNC System HBCUs.
The mother of Frederick Rodriquez Cox, 18, is outraged when a High Point grand jury fails to indict an off-duty Davidson County Sheriff’s detective in Cox’s fatal November 2020 shooting death.
A Harvard University Project reports that police kill Blacks twice as many times as Whites in North Carolina.
An inexplicable “racist” event at the Historic Latta Plantation near Charlotte was canceled for Juneteenth because it commemorated defeated Confederate white refugees instead of the emancipated Black slaves across the country.
Cary joins Raleigh, Durham, Carrboro, Greensboro, Hillsborough and Chapel Hill in making Juneteenth a paid holiday.
` Nikole Hannah-Jones refuses to take UNC job offer unless tenure is also given.
GOP state lawmakers do not fund state Capitol Black History project in latest state budget proposal.
About 800 students at HBCU St. Augustine’s University are happy, that, thanks to over $9 million in federal Coronavirus AID, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding, many of their unpaid balances to the school from the most recent semesters, have been paid off. Students at other HBCUs across the state are also beneficiaries of CARES.
Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones rejects UNC Trustee Board’s belated tenure offer. Appearing on CBS This Morning, the Pulitzer Prize winner said it was “embarrassing” to have been the only person to have gone through the controversy of having the tenure denied until the last minute.
U.S. Supreme Court rules 6-3 that a modest imposition on voting rights is not a violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, making it harder to challenge some voting laws as discriminatory.
NC Republican legislative leaders vow to fight the practice of affirmative action and the teaching of “critical race theory.”
In the aftermath of the shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr. by Pasquotank County deputies, Brown’s family files a $30 million federal lawsuit. Meanwhile , state GOP lawmakers move to make it more difficult for police bodycam footage to be released to a victim’s family and the public.
Threats of violence are made against public school administrators over the teaching of critical race theory, but school officials insist that CRT is not taught in North Carolina public schools.
Pres. Biden nominates retired NC Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks to serve as Deputy Administrator for FEMA.
Approximately 61% of adults in North Carolina had received at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot, with 58% being fully vaccinated.
Local school boards vote whether to require masks in the classroom to protect against COVID-19.
Wilmington City Council votes to make the removal of two Confederate statues from downtown permanent , and to return them to a local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Universities across the state opt to test students, faculty and staff for COVID-19. Meanwhile various local and county governments decide to have their employees verify their vaccination status.
Students, teachers and lawmakers question the goal of HB 324, a bill that outlaws the teaching of America’s and North Carolina’s racial history.
North Carolina’s redistricting process begins, with the state’s 13 congressional districts being redrawn in order to add a 14th.
North Carolina has a shortage of teachers in core curriculum areas.
Republicans falsely blame African-Americans for spike in coronavirus cases across the nation.
Veteran civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson and his wife Jacqueline are treated for COVID-19. Rev. Jackson was vaccinated, but his wife was not.
A three-judge NC Superior Court panel ruled in favor of voting rights for parolees. The NC Court of Appeals blocks the ruling.
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson releases a report claiming teachers are “abusing’ their positions by indoctrinating students with critical race theory. Democratic leaders blast the report.
The U.S. House passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Conservative Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorne told a Sunday gathering that future elections could bring “bloodshed” as he maintained that the Nov. 2020 presidential elections were fraudulent.
State Republicans pass anti-rioting bill.
Gov. Roy Cooper vetoes both the anti-rioting bill and the anti- critical race theory bill.
Actor Michael K. Williams dies of opioid abuse.
State Supreme Court allows ex-felons who have registered to vote by Sept. 3rd to remain so.
A three-judge Superior Court panel ruled that the state’s 2018 voter photo ID law was unconstitutional because even if it didn’t intend to discriminate against African-Americans, that is what it effectively did. Republicans appeal.
At least sixty employees with UNC-Rex Hospital quit their jobs rather than follow an employment mandate that they be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.
According to the NC Dept of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), 5.3% of the 57% of North Carolinians who had received at least one shot to protect against COVID-19, had not returned to get their second shot.
Republican state Supreme Court associate justices Phil Berger Jr. and Tamara Barringer are asked to recuse themselves from ruling on a voter I.D. case because of their prior connections. Justice Berger’s father, Senate pro tem Phil Berger helped to pass the voter I.D. law in question, as did Justice Barringer when she served in the NC Senate.
Bishop William Barber delivers address at the Vatican in Rome on combating global poverty.
Pres. Joe Biden nominates two African-American women to be confirmed as U.S. attorneys in North Carolina. In the Western District, Dena King was chosen to oversee federal prosecutions in Charlotte and 32 counties. Sandra Hairston was chosen to become U.S. attorney for the Middle District, encompassing Greensboro and 24 counties in the middle of the state.
According to a Lending Tree analysis, of the top 100 largest metro areas in the nation to start a small business, Raleigh, is number 1, Charlotte is #3 and Durham is # 4. Raleigh is the best because 55% of it’s population is between 25 and 54, seen as prime working years.
A Republican NC Appellate Court judge, Jefferson Griffin, just elected in 2020, maintained that there is no racial bias in North Carolina’s court system.
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson makes clear that he wants to run for NC governor in 2024.
Former u.S. Sec. of State Colin Powell, 84, dies of COVID-19.
A federal judge ruled that UNC-Chapel Hill does not discriminate in the use of race of it’s undergraduate admissions policy, and may continue to do so.
After 123 years, one of the first graves of a black 1898 race massacre victim was discovered off Rankin Street in Wilmington in an unmarked grave in Pine Forest Cemetery. The discovery of the body of Joshua Halsey was made by the nonprofit Third Person Project.
North Carolina Congresswoman Alma Adams believes that the Jan. 6th siege on the U.S. Capitol could happen again if Trump supporters don’t like the results of either the 2022 midterm or 2024 presidential elections. Meanwhile a Congressional Select Investigative Committee continued its probe into Jan. 6th.
Deborah Dicks-Maxwell, president of the New Hanover County NAACP, unseats incumbent NC NAACP President Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, in a controversial state conference election.
Several concerned members of the NC NAACP state conference file a complaint with the national NAACP, challenging the results of the Oct. 23rd elections.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSI), a nonprofit, nonpartisan progressive legal group known for successfully filing suit against Republican redistricting efforts they deemed were unconstitutional, filed a lawsuit on Oct. 29th in Wake County alleging that the new maps, in not considering race, “…could have devastating impacts on the representations of Black North Carolinians in violation of established state and federal law.”
Democrats also decry the new Republican voting maps.
It was in reverence and honor that mourners came together to give a funeral for Joshua Halsey, one of the many confirmed Black victims of the bloody 1898 Wilmington Race Massacre, as part of the 123rd commemoration activities this month sponsored by New Hanover County and the city of Wilmington.
NC civil rights leaders join the nation in hailing the conviction of three white men in the murder of Black jogger, 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. The three men now await a federal trial in February on hate crime charges.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the NC Dept. of Health and Human Services, announced that she is leaving her post effective Dec. 31st. Gov. Roy Cooper has chosen Chief Deputy Sec. Kody Kinsley to replace Dr. Cohen as of January 1st. 2022.
Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles announced in a 30-second video that she is running for third term in 2022. Lyles, a moderate Democrat, is the first Black woman ever elected mayor of the Queen City.
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson is criticized when he is seen on videotape demeaning LGBTQ people. Then he verbally assaults a Democratic senator who criticized him during a legislative session.
A concerned group of NC NAACP members called “the Justice Coalition,’ led by Greensboro pastor and Life member Rev. Dr. Cardes H. Brown, Jr., issues a public statement blasting the national NAACP office for failing to address the “stench” of it’s failure to deal with the alleged mishandling of the Oct. 23rd state conference elections by administrator Gloria Sweet-Love. It would be later that the national office would dismiss the complaint from the Justice Coalition.
State Supreme Court delays all candidate filings for the March 2022 midterm primary elections, pushing them back to May 2022, in order to review two lawsuits challenging the new Republican redistricting maps the Democrats charge are ‘unfair.’
A May, 2017 arrest at the NC General Assembly of the Rev. William Barber, and subsequent conviction for trespassing, is upheld by the NC Court of Appeals. The state appellate court rules that while Rev. Barber, then still president of the NC NAACP, had the right to protest, he was still guilty of second-degree trespassing when he refused to leave when told to do so.
Gov. Roy Cooper warned North Carolinians that COVID-19 cases across the state were going back up because of the national outbreak of the omicron variant, and those who are not vaccinated are at greatest risk of serious illness and hospitalization. Indeed, outgoing NC Dept. of Health and Human Services Sec. Dr. Mandy Cohen said NC could see up to 10,000 new cases a day in January.
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) says he cannot support Pres. Joe Biden’s almost $2 trillion Build Back Better social spending legislation. Democrat say they will try to bring Manchin around next year.
The world mourned the loss of South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who died at age 90 of cancer. Tutu was best known for his fight against South Africa’s racist apartheid regime.
Mary Alice Jervay Thatch, publisher/editor of The Wilmington Journal, died on December 28th after a prolonged illness. She was 78. Ms. Jervay was known for being a courageous fighter for the Black community.