Scottsboro Case

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Scottsboro Case.

In 1931 nine black youths were indicted at Scottsboro, Ala., on charges of having raped two white women in a freight car passing through Alabama. In a series of trials the youths were found guilty and sentenced to death or to prison terms of 75 to 99 years. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed convictions twice on procedural grounds (that the youths' right to counsel had been infringed and that no blacks had served on the grand or trial jury). At the second trial one of the women recanted her previous testimony. The Alabama trial judge set aside the guilty verdict as contrary to the weight of the evidence and ordered a new trial. In 1937 charges against five were dropped and the state agreed to consider parole for the others. Two were paroled in 1944, one in 1951. When the fourth escaped (1948) to Michigan, the state refused to return him to Alabama. In 1976, Alabama pardoned the last known surviving "Scottsboro boy," Clarence Norris, who had broken parole and fled the state in 1946; the other three who had been convicted were posthumously pardoned in 2013. The belief that the case against the "Scottsboro boys" was unproved and that the verdicts were the result of racism caused 1930s liberals and radicals to come to the defense of the youths. The fact that Communists used the case for propaganda further complicated the affair.


See H. Patterson and E. Conrad, Scottsboro Boy (1950, repr. 1969); A. K. Chalmers, They Shall Be Free (1951); D. T. Carter, Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South (1969); J. Goodman, Stories of Scottsboro (1994).

Scottsboro Case

cause célèbre concerning nine Negro men, two white girls (1931). [Am. Hist.: Hart, 753]
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Miller argues that To Kill A Mockingbird presented an anodyne version of the Scottsboro case, a fiction in which locals resolve this local issue free of outside interference from the Communist Party and the NAACP, and where the question of racial oppression was never considered.
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From the angry tone of Duckworth's rejoinder, it appears that, if he saw the allusion to the Scottsboro case as such, he was much more insulted than persuaded by it.
Documents include court testimony from the notorious Scottsboro Case, news stories and editorials on civil rights activities in Alabama in the 1950s, and memoirs, interviews, and other readings that promote interdisciplinary study of the novel.
In this ably documented and engagingly written study, James Miller traces the ways in which the Scottsboro case of the 1930s--"arguably the most celebrated racial spectacle of twentieth-century American history, at least up to the 1955 murder of Emmett Till"--has functioned as "a broad signifier for the history of American racial atrocities" (2-3).
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The 1931 Scottsboro case transforms Hughes' racial mountain into a Calvary at whose peak Hughes finds (or fashions) a powerful tableau: the "Nigger Christ" languishes on his southern cross, and beside this grim sight Communism's red flag dramatically unfurls.
Hughes's passionate defense of the Scottsboro case in Faith Berry's Good Morning Revolution (1973) used a very similar imagery in 1931.
From 1932 onward Herndon would ride the coattails of the Scottsboro case when, on the mere evidence of CP publications found in his Atlanta bedroom, he was sentenced under a slave-era statute to 18-to-20 years on the Georgia chain gang for "attempting to incite insurrection.
He is particularly concerned with the Party's active campaign to deconstruct the "triangular lynch myth" of the black male rapist, the white female victim, and the white male protector--symbolized most dramatically by the infamous Scottsboro case of the 1930s.
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