In 1931, nine black teenage boys (one age 13) were accused of raping two white women. They were tried before an all-white jury, defended by incompetent and unprepared lawyers and convicted on testimony tainted by perjury and racism. The verdict was a foregone conclusion.
When the sentences were handed down, a band outside struck up “There’ll be a hot time in the old town tonight.”
In the months, even years, that followed, the Scottsboro Boys became the center of a legal and political struggle that involved the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, the American Communist Party and the judicial system of Alabama. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to use the Scottsboro Boys to advance their particular cause.
As for the young men, they were lost in it all.
It was, as a PBS documentary called it, “An American Tragedy.”
The time has passed for Alabama to be able to make amends to the Scottsboro Boys for what was done to them. In 1976, the only known survivor of the group was pardoned by then-Gov. George Wallace. The others are dead.
However, it would be fitting at least for the state to issue posthumous pardons for the other eight, but state law prohibits it.
Hoping to right the wrong, Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, has authored a bill that would permit the posthumous pardons. This page hopes that it will be passed and that, as best as it can, Alabama will set the record right.
We can never close the books on the case of the Scottsboro Boys, but this will help.