Friday, April 06, 2012

April 6, 1931: The Scottsboro Boys

Scottsboro Boys
The Scottsboro Boys
1931 USA: The first of the trials of the nine 'Scottsboro Boys' began at Scottsboro, Alabama, before Judge EG Hawkins. After a lynch mob gathered, the Alabama Governor, Benjamin Meeks Mille, was forced to call the National Guard to protect the jail. Milo Moody was appointed by the court to serve as defence counsel. Charlie Weems and Clarence Norris were declared 'guilty' by the jury. The great crowd assembled before the courthouse, surrounded by state troopers, staged a demonstration of approval with the band playing, 'There'll be a hot time in the old town tonight'. The others were found guilty over the next two days.

The nine African-American teenagers had been charged with the rape of two Caucasian girls, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates, on the Southern Railroad freight run from Chattanooga to Memphis on March 25, 1931. It was a crime that never happened. In the words of writer Douglas O Linder, "Over the course of the two decades that followed, the struggle for justice of the 'Scottsboro Boys,' as the black teens were called, made celebrities out of anonymities, launched and ended careers, wasted lives, produced heroes, opened southern juries to blacks, exacerbated sectional strife, and divided America's political left."

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the International Labor Defense both took up the case, but the NAACP dropped the case in January, 1932. Despite the fact that a letter surfaced in which Ruby Bates denied that she was raped, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the convictions of seven of the Boys in March, 1932.
The men were sentenced to death, despite the fact that one of the women later denied having been raped ...


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