March 25, 2023

The Scottsboro Boys

On March 25, 1931, nine Black teenagers riding a freight train through Alabama and were arrested after being falsely accused of raping two white women. Consequently, the National Guard was called in to protect the youngsters from potential mob violence. The teens were then relocated to another town and put on trial in Scottsboro, Alabama on April 6th.
Despite evidence that exonerated the teens, including a retraction by Ruby Bates on of their accusers, the state pursued the case. All-white juries delivered guilty verdicts and all nine defendants, and ALL except the youngest, were sentenced to death. In 1932, the U.S. Supreme Court determined in the case Powell v. Alabama that the Scottsboro defendants were denied adequate legal representation. Subsequently, in 1935, in the case Norris v. Alabama, the Supreme Court again sided with the defendants and overturned their convictions as Alabama had deliberately excluded Black people from serving on the jury.
From 1931 to 1937, during a series of appeals and new trials, they languished in Alabama's Kilby prison, Finally, four of the defendants were released and five were given sentences from 20 years to life; Of the latter group, four were released on parole between 1943 and 1950, while the fifth escaped from prison in 1948 and relocated to Michigan.
Their trials and retrials of the Scottsboro Boys sparked an international uproar. This stirred up a competition between the International Labor Defense (ILD) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for the legal services of the Scottsboro Boys. This led to two important legal precedents from the U.S. Supreme Court and lastly It was the first time in Alabama's history that a black man was not sentenced to death for the rape of a white woman.