Sort Of Justice For the Scottsboro Boys

On March 25, 1931 a fight broke out a freight train traveling the Southern Railway line between Chattanooga and Memphis. Nine black hoboes battled a few whites and two women. According to Wikipedia the whites were kicked off the freight car and a posse stopped the train at Paint Rock, Alabama and arrested seven teenage blacks for assault.

Olen Montgomery, age 17, Clarence Norris, age 19, Haywood Patterson, age 18, Ozie Powell, age 16, Willie Roberson, age 16, Charlie Weems, age 16, Eugene Williams, age 13, and brothers Andy, age 19 and Roy Wright, age 12 or 13.

The two white women, Ruby Bates and Victoria Price, said they had been raped by the black teenagers.

A lynch mob assembled before the Scottsboro jail intent on exacting justice for the violation of the white woman. The accused survived the night thanks to the courage of Sheriff Matt Wann, who threaten to shoot the first person to come through the door.

According to Wikipedia he then removed his belt and handed his gun to one of his deputies. He walked through the mob and the crowd parted to let him through. He was not touched by anyone. He walked across the street to the courthouse where he telephoned Governor Benjamin M. Miller who then called in the National Guard to protect the jail before taking the defendants to Gadsden, Alabama, for indictment and to await trial by the all-white jury. Although rape was potentially a capital offense, the defendants were not allowed to consult an attorney. Most were illiterate.

The proceedings were held in typical Southern fashion.

“The courtroom was one big smiling white face.” – Haywood Patterson.

Victoria Price took the stand. Her words condemned the boys.

“There were six to me and three to her….It took three of them to hold me. One was holding my legs and the other had a knife to my throat while the other one ravished me.” – Victoria Price

The trial convicted the seven of rape and the judge sentenced six to death.

“He couldn’t get us to the chair fast enough.” – Haywood Patterson

The appeal trail knocked down the penalty to life imprisonment, even after Ruby Cates reversed her previous testimony.

The boys continued life behind bars into the 1940s for a mythical crime.

This week Alabama finally pardoned the Scottsboro Boy and Gov. Robert J. Bentley said in a letter, “The Scottsboro Boys have finally received justice.”

The right thing to do was an apology in recognition to the injustice done to the Scottsboro Boys, one of whom was murdered in prison, then again everyone is guilty of something in the minds of the police; North or South.

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