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*On this date in 1931, nine young Black men were arrested in Scottsboro, Alabama, and the case of the Scottsboro Boys trial began.
This legal defense developed from their arrest for the alleged rape of two white girls. The nine arrestees were about to become The Scottsboro Boys. Haywood Patterson, Olin Montgomery, Andy Wright, and Willie Roberson, aged 17; Roy Wright and Eugene Williams, 13; Ozzie Powell, 16; and Charles Weems and Clarence Norris, 21.
Twenty indictments were handed down on March 30 in Scottsboro. All nine pleaded not guilty. Their trials began on April 6 and were completed in three days; eight were sentenced to death in the electric chair on July 10th, and the ninth to life imprisonment. The following year, the appeal process began with the case of Powell v. Alabama.
After six years of appeals and retrials, during which the U.S. Supreme Court twice declared mistrials, five of the original indictments were dropped. The remaining four men received long prison terms. By 1946, all were paroled except Haywood Patterson, who, two years later, escaped to Michigan, where that state government refused to extradite him to Alabama. Clarence Norris and Patterson each went on to participate in the writing of books about their lives. Patterson’s book, “Scottsboro Boy,” was published in 1950 while he was a fugitive. Norris published his book, “The Last of the Scottsboro Boys,” in 1979.
Ten years later, on January 23, 1989, the last of the Scottsboro Boys died.
Historic U.S. Cases 1690-1993:
An Encyclopedia New York
Copyright 1992 Garland Publishing, New York