Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pop History Moment: The Scottsboro Nine Are Arrested


On this day in 1931 nine black men (Haywood Patterson, Clarence Norris, Andy Wright, Roy Wright, Willie Roberson, Charles Weems, Ozie Powell, Olen Montgomery, and Eugene Williams) were accused of raping two white women on a Southern Railroad freight train, somewhere between Chattanooga and Memphis...

What actually happened will likely never be known, but the picture that emerges from various testimonies is that among the many illegal passengers in that boxcar was a similar group of white youths, out to make trouble, and a pair of white prostitutes named Victoria Price and Ruby Bates. After the white group was ousted by the black one it seems the two women wanted to show their gratitude, and did so in their best manner.

Unbeknownst to them, the white youths complained to the stationmaster, who wired ahead to the next stop - which was Paint Rock, Arkansas - and all were taken into custody; before the day was out, they'd been taken to nearby Scottsboro, and by nightfall the National Guard was protecting the jail from an ever-growing lynch mob.

The ensuing trials - for there were many - kept the Depression-era public well entertained; along with the Lindbergh Baby trial, the cases of Sacco & Vanzetti and Leopold & Loeb in the 1920s, and numerous tales of outlawry from John Dillinger to Bonnie & Clyde the general lawlessness and cruelty of the times makes for a fascinating study. Thought to have at least partially inspired Harper Lee's masterpiece To Kill a Mockingbird, the convoluted story of what happened next to the Scottsboro Nine (also known as the Scottsboro Boys) is better illuminated in James Goodman's book Stories of Scottsboro than I could ever hope to do in the space allotted to me here...
share on: facebook

No comments: