The Accusers… • Victoria Price: • lower class white woman, age 21 • An active prostitute who liked to drink; daughter of a widow who lived in a racially mixed section of town, worked at the mill, seen having intercourse in public places • Good on the stand, hostile, but made graphic allusion to the events that she claimed occurred.
Ruby Bates • Lower class girl, familial problems, “played, lived and slept with blacks” • Described as a very active prostitute • Poor witness on the stand • Retracted her initial testimony and claimed that Victoria encouraged her lie so as to not get in trouble for violating the Mann Act, crossing state lines for immoral reasons, like sex. • Eventually campaigned for the released of the SB
Accusers and the Accused White Women Black Men Haywood Patterson Charles Weems Clarence Norris Andy Wright Ozzie Powell Olen Montgomery Eugene Williams Willie Roberson Roy Wright, age 12 • Victoria Price • Ruby Bates • "The whole damnable thing was a frame-up of two irresponsible women." --Samuel Leibowitz addressing the jury
On the train… • A fight broke out between some of the Scottsboro boys and several white boys who were in the same car. A white boy stepped on a black boy’s hand. • The white boys reported a gang attack. The train stopped. All the black youths that were found were captured. • Everyone was traveling to look for work, including 2 white women, who for unknown reasons claimed to have been gang raped by a group of black men. • Trials for the Scottsboro 9, all of the African Americans rounded up after the fight, began 12 days later.
1931- 1932 • 9 African American youths were accused of and charged with raping 2 white women on a train passing through a very small town in Alabama. • 8 of the 9 were found guilty and sentenced to death or 75-99 years in prison. • Executions were stayed pending the appeals process • The NAACP tried to get the right to defend the boys in spring of 1931 but withdraws from the case in 1932. • Ruby Bates, in a letter to her boyfriend, denies being raped. • Alabama supreme court affirms the convictions of 7 of the 8 boys • U.S. Supreme Court announces it will review the case and eventually reverses the convictions
1933-1938 • Protests occur around the nation • Mistrials and retrials, convictions and over-rulings, reductions, parole granted, parole denied, etc., for 7-8 years. • Example: Haywood Patterson is convicted for the 4th time; Ozzie is shot in the head while attacking an officer.
In the media… • All negroes positively identified by girls and one white boy who was held prisoner with pistol and knives while nine black fiends committed revolting crime • The state’s case was described as “so conclusive as to be almost perfect”…after bribery, violence, corruption, circumstantial evidence. • ROOSEVELT IS ASKED TO INTERVENE TO PROTECT SCOTTSBORO NEGROES (NYT 1933)
Quotes from the trial • "I saw all of them have intercourse; I saw all that with my own eyes." --Roy Wright, age 13, testifying in the 1st trial • "I was sitting in a chair and one of those girls was testifying. One of the deputy sheriffs leaned over to me and asked if I was going to turn state's evidence, and I said no, because I didn't know anything about this case. Then the trial stopped awhile and the deputy sheriff beckoned to me to come out into another room-- the room back of the place where the judge was sitting-- and I went. They whipped me and it seemed like they were going to kill me. All the time they kept saying, "Now will you tell?" and finally it seemed to me like I couldn't stand it no more and I said yes." --Roy Wright (NY Times, 3/10/33) • "I was scared before, but it wasn't nothing to how I felt now. I knew if a white woman accused a black man of rape, he was as good as dead." --Clarence Norris
Works Cited • www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/FTrials/scottsboro/SB_acct.html • http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/FTrials/scottsboro/scottsb.htm