This chilling and harrowing account tells the story of the Scottsboro Boys, nine African-American teenagers who, when riding the rails during the Great Depression, found their lives destroyed after two white women falsely accused them of rape. Award-winning author Larry Dane Brimner explains how it took more than eighty years for their wrongful convictions to be overturned.
In 1931, nine teenagers were arrested as they traveled on a train through Scottsboro, Alabama. The youngest was thirteen, and all had been hoping to find something better at the end of their journey. But they never arrived. Instead, two white women falsely accused them of rape. The effects were catastrophic for the young men, who came to be known as the Scottsboro Boys. Being accused of raping a white woman in the Jim Crow south almost certainly meant death, either by a lynch mob or the electric chair. The Scottsboro boys found themselves facing one prejudiced trial after another, in one of the worst miscarriages of justice in U.S. history. They also faced a racist legal system, all-white juries, and the death penalty. Noted Sibert Medalist Larry Dane Brimner uncovers how the Scottsboro Boys spent years in Alabama's prison system, enduring inhumane conditions and torture. The extensive back matter includes an author's note, bibliography, index, and further resources and source notes.
|Publisher:||Astra Publishing House|
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.80(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 17 Years|
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A posse of deputized white farmers carrying pistols and shotguns rousted Haywood Patterson and eight other young black men from the forty-two–car Alabama Great Southern Railroad freight train as it rolled to a stop in Paint Rock, Alabama. It was Wednesday, March 25, 1931, at around two o’clock in the afternoon.
Except for Patterson and his three Chattanooga, Tennessee, friends—Eugene Williams and brothers Andy and Roy Wright—the nine black youths were relative strangers. They had been riding in different railcars, and some of them met for the first time when a scuffle broke out with several young white fellows who also were“stealing a ride.” As Patterson explained, the fight started “with a white foot on my black hand,” which almost knocked Patterson off the oil tanker he was riding on. The young white men wanted the Memphis-bound train to themselves. Almost all of them, blacks and whites, were “hoboing from one place to another looking for work.” The desperation of the Great Depression had driven them from their homes to find a way to provide for themselves, with perhaps a little something left over to send back to their families. But during the tussle, the black men got the upper hand. “Some of them [the white boys] jumped off [the slow-moving train],” said Patterson, “and some we put off.”
Angered and embarrassed at losing the fight, the white boys made their way to Stevenson, Alabama, the closest town through which the freight train had passed, and lodged a complaint at the depot. The station master there called ahead to Scottsboro, Alabama, to report the violence that had occurred and to have the black youths rounded up, but the train had already passed through the town. Jackson County sheriff M. L. Wann called Deputy Sheriff Charlie Latham in Paint Rock, the next stop, and told him to deputize as many men as he needed to “capture every negro on the train and bring them to Scottsboro.”
Now, in Paint Rock, Latham and the farmers roped the “Negroes together.” They took down everyone’s name and forced all nine into the back of a truck. “Some had not even been in the fight on the train,” Patterson recalled later. “A few in the fight got away so the posse [of farmers] never picked them up.”
Patterson asked a man what the fuss was about.
“Assault and attempt to murder,” the man answered.
Along with the black youths, a young white man and “two girls dressed in men’s overalls” were taken from the railcars. It was then Patterson first realized that women also had been hoboing aboard the Alabama Great Southern Railroad. The truck, loaded with its cargo of youthful hoboes, made the short, dusty journey from Paint Rock to Scottsboro, the seat ofJackson County. Here, the boys were taken to the two-story jail, where they were placed in a cell with “flat bars, checkerboard style, around the windows.”
The black youths were hot, sweaty, and scared. Outside the window of their cell, they could see a crowd of excited, noisy whitefolks beginning to gather. Patterson described them as “mad ants, white ants, sore that somebody had stepped on their hill.” Some of the younger boys started to cry.