In Scottsboro Al., in 1931, 9 black teenagers were accused, tried in court and found guilty of raping a white woman. They became known as the Scottsboro boys. Eighty two years later, it would seem, that justice has prevailed on their behalf. The last of the Scottsboro boys, has finally been pardoned.
This saga began on a train, in March 25th 1931. A group of white people, were traveling illegally on a freight train, that hailed from Chatatanooga Tn., and was bound for Memphis. Several of these individuals jumped from the train, and alleged to a local sheriff, that they had been attacked by a group of black people while on the train.
Authorities stopped the train in Alabama, and arrested 9 young black men. They also found two white women on board, who said they had been raped. There was a trial, and all of the the young men, except 13 year old Roy Wright were sentenced to death.
Although it was voiced that the young men had been framed, and a key a witness recanted their testimony, the Scottsboro 9 were convicted by an all white jury. They also dealt with angry mobs who were intent on lynching them.
All nine of the men, did serve time in jail. The state however later dropped the rape charges on 5 of them. The remaining 4, Charlie Weems, Clarence Norris, Andy Wright and Haywood Patterson, were convicted of the rape in 1937.
After a 6 year process, which included 3 separate trials, they all received harsh prison sentences. Only Clarence Norris was formally sentenced to death. In 1946, Norris escaped parole, and went into hiding. He was officially pardoned in 1976, by then Governor George Wallace.
In an attempt to correct one of the worst injustices of the deep south, the Alabama parole board, on Thursday November 21st, 2013 granted posthumous pardons for Wright, Weems, and Patterson. Nothing however will remove the scars from those who remember the tragedy, and have it ingrained in their psych.
My grandmother, many times told my two younger brothers, that they should be careful of associating with their white friends, especially the girls. She would tell them that she did want them to end up like the Scottsboro boys, or Billy Johnson.
Billy Johnson was a 16 year old who lived in Blue Ridge Va., with his mother, and 3 siblings. Their home was only a few yards away from where my family lived at the time. My grandmother first shared this story in the mid 1970’s, when we were actually living in the Johnson’s previous home.
According to my grandmother, in the early 1960’s, Billy had been involved in a car wreck in Bedford Va. She said that she was told, that Billy survived the crash, but when local law enforcement saw his passenger was a white girl, they beat him to death.