“This is historic legislation, and it’s time to right this wrong.”
April 12, 2013 10:15 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed Senate Bill 97, the Scottsboro Boys Act allowing for posthumous pardons. Bentley has said he wanted to close a chapter of state history. The Scottsboro case led to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision against excluding Blacks from juries.

In 1931, nine black youths ages 13 to 19 were pulled from a train, arrested and taken to nearby Scottsboro, Alabama, where they were jailed, tried and declared guilty of raping two white women — a crime that never occurred. All-white, male juries quickly sentenced eight to death. A long-term and ultimately successful campaign to save the youths' lives and, in time, exonerate them led to one of the most dramatic and revealing civil rights struggles in U.S. history. - The Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center

The boys arrested were Olen Montgomery (age 17), Clarence Norris (age 19), Haywood Patterson (age 18), Ozie Powell (age 16), Willie Roberson (age 16), Charlie Weems (age 16), Eugene Williams (age 13), and brothers Andy (age 19) and Roy Wright (age 13).

The Trials of the Scottsboro Boys

American Experience

In 2010, the tale of the Scottsboro Boys hit Broadway in a musical penned by John Kander and the late Fred Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret).
posted by roomthreeseventeen (7 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Powell (the case about the Scottsboro boys) also ushered in the right to an attorney for criminal defendants, leading to the broader holding in Gideon. Pretty important event in the history of the U.S., overall. Thanks for this post.
posted by likeatoaster at 10:24 AM on April 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

I hadn't been aware of this fascinating story. Excellent FPP.
posted by anewnadir at 10:28 AM on April 12, 2013

Wanting to learn more about Gov. Bentley in light of this positive piece of legislation, I find what as my first Google news return? "Alabama governor signs law tightening rules for abortion clinics". One step forward, two steps back feels like the definition of progress in the US these days...
posted by Doktor Zed at 11:01 AM on April 12, 2013

I'm glad this was done, but, don't break your arms patting yourselves on the back, Alabama. Pardoning innocent men who were railroaded and sentenced to die is par, it's not exceptional.
posted by thelonius at 11:01 AM on April 12, 2013 [6 favorites]

As an Alabamian I was very pleased to hear about this. It's nice to see SOME progress being made here, but as Doktor Zed pointed out 'one step forward, two steps back".

Bentley has not been the best friend to women, minorities and LGBT folks since taking office. He's a Republican, so there's no real surprise there, but it still galls me to see our state completely falling down on the job.

Also, Bentley looks remarkably like Mr. Burns. Just sayin'.
posted by BrianJ at 12:59 PM on April 12, 2013

The American Experience documentary Scottsboro: An American Tragedy is available on youtube as well. It's a great film and well worth the time investment.

I think it's a weird twist that one of the Scottsboro boys, Clarence Norris, received a pardon in 1976 by none other than George Wallace -- the governor who declared "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever" at his 1963 inaugural speech.
posted by lilac girl at 4:39 PM on April 12, 2013

Bentley has said he wanted to close a chapter of state history

Current policies and social arrangements have no relationship whatsoever to these things which we have completely fixed. See also, "nobody alive today was a slave!".
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:03 PM on April 12, 2013

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