Scottsboro and Its Legacy: The Cases that Challenged American Legal and Social Justice

Overview

Nine black teenagers were accused of raping two white women on a train in 1931 in northern Alabama. They were arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death in the town of Scottsboro in little more than two weeks. The Scottsboro Boys case rapidly captured public attention and became a lightning rod for fundamental issues of social justice including racial discrimination, class oppression, and legal fairness. Involving years of appeals, the Scottsboro trials resulted in two landmark U.S. Supreme Court rulings ...

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Scottsboro and Its Legacy: The Cases That Challenged American Legal and Social Justice [Crime, Media, and Popular Culture Series]

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Overview

Nine black teenagers were accused of raping two white women on a train in 1931 in northern Alabama. They were arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death in the town of Scottsboro in little more than two weeks. The Scottsboro Boys case rapidly captured public attention and became a lightning rod for fundamental issues of social justice including racial discrimination, class oppression, and legal fairness. Involving years of appeals, the Scottsboro trials resulted in two landmark U.S. Supreme Court rulings and were a vortex for the sometimes-competing interests of the American Communist Party, the NAACP, and the young men themselves. The cases resulted in a damning portrayal of southern justice and corresponding social mores in several national and international media outlets, and in a spirited defense of the judicial system and prevailing cultural norms in other news reports, particularly in the South. Here, Acker details the alleged crimes, their legal aftermath, and their immediate and enduring social significance as evidenced in media portrayals and other forms of popular culture.

Using extensive media reports, including contemporaneous newspaper accounts and interpretations of the proceedings, as well as the sallies of champions of various organizations and social causes, the author illustrates the role of the media in the cases and the effect the cases had on society at the time. In addition to tracing the history of the cases and their media portrayal, the book explores the legacy of the Scottsboro trials and appeals. It examines several issues relevant to the cases that, even today, have enduring significance to law and popular perceptions of justice, including capital punishment, racial discrimination, innocence, the composition and functioning of trial juries, the quality of legal counsel for indigents, evidentiary issues in rape cases, and media interactions with the courts. More than a true crime tale, this book takes readers through the crime but also illustrates its enduring legacy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Acker provides a straightforward, chronological account of the trial, appeals, and ultimate resolution of the cases. To his credit, he maintains his objectivity, although readers are likely to be filled with moral outrage over his recounting of events that exposed the racial animus that permeated our legal and social systems."

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Booklist

"This is a very careful, even painstaking examination of the Scottsboro Boys, the nine black teenagers convicted of raping two white women on a train ride through Alabama in early 1931. Acker (criminal justice, Univ. of Albany) alternately operates in the manner of a private investigator, a defense attorney, or an advocate for social justice. In the process, he intelligently explores the circumstances involving a fight between white and black young men; incendiary charges leveled by a pair of white women, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates; journalistic drumbeats both attacking and defending the accused and their accusers; multiple prosecutions; and the subsequent personal histories of those whose lives were forever changed by the case….Recommended."

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Choice

"Acker does a good job of explaining the significances of the legal issues involved in the Scottsboro cases…Readers interested in the social and cultural history surrounding the cases should read this book…"

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Journal of Social History

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Product Details

Meet the Author

JAMES R. ACKER is Distinguished Teaching Professor at the School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany. He is the author of Wounds that Do Not Bind: Victim-Based Perspectives on the Death Penalty, Two Voices on the Legal Rights of America's Youth, Criminal Procedure: A Contemporary Perspective, and other books, as well as numerous articles and book chapters.

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Table of Contents

Series Foreword Frankie Y. Bailey Bailey, Frankie Y. Steven Chermak Chermak, Steven

Preface

Introduction

Chapter 1 Arrest and Accusation 1

Chapter 2 Scottsboro: Trials and Appeals 17

Chapter 3 In Judge Horton's Court 53

Chapter 4 Decatur Redux: Judge and Jury 101

Chapter 5 Denouement 153

Chapter 6 The Lessons of Scottsboro 195

Notes 211

Bibliography 243

Index 251

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