An Alabama town plans to erect a memorial to nine black teenagers who were charged with raping two white women in 1931 in a case that came to symbolize racial injustice in Southern courts.
City and county leaders will gather Jan. 25 to place a historical marker to the “Scottsboro Boys” near the Jackson County Courthouse in northern Alabama, the first official acknowledgment by the town of the controversy surrounding the case.
“I see it as part of a healing process that our community needs to come to terms with,” Mayor Ron Bailey said. “Otherwise, it will be a stumbling block to the future.”
Nine black teenagers were charged in 1931 with raping two white women in a railroad boxcar as a train passed through Scottsboro, about 35 miles east of Huntsville.
Eight of the nine were convicted by all-white juries and sentenced to death. The U.S. Supreme Court later reversed the convictions because the state failed to provide adequate legal assistance.
The case, which drew international attention, was an early victory for civil rights because it produced a 1935 ruling that blacks could no longer be kept off juries.
During retrials, one of the white women recanted, but three of the teens were again convicted and sentenced to prison terms. Some others remained in custody for several years until their charges were dropped.
The quest for justice lasted until 1976, when then-Gov. George C. Wallace pardoned Clarence Norris, the last surviving defendant, who had been paroled in 1946 and left Alabama.
The site was chosen for the $1,600 marker mainly because the nine teenagers were escorted from the county jail to the courthouse on April 6, 1931, the day the case began.