Public Domain The Scottsboro Boys were nine young black men, falsely accused of raping two white women on board a train near Scottsboro, Alabama in Convicted and facing execution, the case of Charlie Weems, Ozie Powell, Clarence Norris, Olen Montgomery, Willie Roberson, Haywood Patterson, Eugene Williams, and Andrew and Leroy Wright sparked international demonstrations and succeeded in both highlighting the racism of the American legal system and in overturning the conviction.
Table of Contents The Scottsboro Boys Trial Although To Kill a Mockingbird is a work of fiction, the rape trial of Tom Robinson at the center of the plot is based on several real trials of black men accused of violent crimes that took place during the years before Lee wrote her book.
Lee does not exaggerate the racism in her account. If anything, she downplays it: Lee defended Frank and Brown Ezell, a black father and son accused of murder, but they were found guilty and executed by hanging. To Kill a Mockingbird also reflects the Scottsboro Boys trial, one of the best-known cases of the s.
Ina group of white teenagers started a fight with several black teens and boys on a train. After getting off the train, the white teens told the sheriff they had been attacked. Two white women also claimed they had been raped.
Nine black teens in total were arrested for the rape. Some of the defendants were as young as twelve years old. The initial trials happened quickly, with as little as a day for each trial.
The all-white jury deliberated the first case, involving two of the defendants, for less than two hours before finding the defendants guilty. After the initial trials found all but one of the defendants guilty, the case was appealed several times.
The appeals claimed that the all-white jury was biased, the defense lawyers were ineffective, and the sentences were unfair. When the new trials were held, one accuser admitted that she had invented the allegations of rape.
Inthe case reached the Alabama Supreme Court, which affirmed seven out of the eight death sentences. After several more appeals the case went before the US Supreme Court, where charges against four of the defendants were dropped. The rest of the defendants either eventually escaped or were released from jail.
The one defendant who had received the death sentence in the final trial violated his parole and went into hiding, and later wrote a book about his experiences after being pardoned by the governor.
The case has become a leading example of the injustice of all-white juries, and has been adapted in many books, plays, and movies. There are many parallels between the Scottsboro cases and To Kill a Mockingbird. As in Scottsboro, Mockingbird concerns the allegations of the rape of a white woman by a black man, a crime punishable by death penalty in Alabama at the time.
They therefore find him guilty even though Atticus Finch makes it obvious that Tom was physically incapable of committing the crime.
In addition, as in Scottsboro, Mockingbird features a lynch mob that seeks to kill Tom before he can face a fair trial.
While the defendants in the Scottsboro case were being held in jail a lynch mob demanded the teens be turned over to them; the sheriff called the Alabama National Guard to protect the jail and moved the teens to a new location.
The lynchers usually went unpunished for the murder.If you are a teacher searching for educational material, please visit PBS LearningMedia for a wide range of free digital resources spanning preschool through 12th grade.
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