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Reply #98: The Scottsboro Boys Trials [View All]

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Brewman_Jax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-12-07 04:07 PM
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98. The Scottsboro Boys Trials
No crime in American history-- let alone a crime that never occurred-- produced as many trials, convictions, reversals, and retrials as did an alleged gang rape of two white girls by nine black teenagers on a Southern Railroad freight run on March 25, 1931. 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.

They were: Roy Wright, 13, Eugene Williams, 13, Andy Wright, 17, Haywood Patterson, 17, Olin Montgomery, 17, Willie Roberson, 17, Ozzie Powell, 16, Charles Weems, 21 and Clarence Norris, 21.

The story of the Scottsboro Boys is one of the most shameful examples of injustice in our nation's history. It makes clear that in the Deep South of the 1930's, jurors were not willing to accord a black charged with raping a white woman the usual presumption of innocence. In fact, one may argue that the presumption seemed reversed: a black was presumed guilty unless he could establish his innocence beyond a reasonable doubt. The cases show that to jurors, black lives didn't count for much. The jurors that in April, 1933 had just voted to sentence Haywood Patterson to death were seen laughing as they emerged from the juryroom. Hannah Arendt wrote of "the banality of evil." Evil rarely comes in the form of monsters, but rather in the form of relatively normal people who, for reasons of careers, ideology, or a desire for society's approval, are indifferent to the human consequences of their actions. Because of the endemic racism of US society in general, (black people don't have rights and aren't entitled to justice because they aren't really people) and the South in particular (the state of Alabama spent millions to the point of almost exhausting the state budget in order to enforce the racial caste system, justice be damned!), indifferent jurors and career-motivated prosecutors, the self-serving and groundless accusations of a single woman were allowed to change forever the lives of nine black teenagers who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The first link has the events and trials in detail; the second link has a partial timeline of the events.

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