The Trials of the Scottsboro Boys 1931

Haywood Patterson, one of the nine teenage boys from Scottsboro, Alabama, accused of rape in 1931, described the courtroom at one of his trials as “one big smiling white face.” Before his ordeal ended in prison, he and the other defendants, who came to be known as the “Scottsboro Boys,” were subjected to two decades of trials, reversals, retrials, and convictions. All but the youngest were convicted, even after one of the two accusers admitted the charges were false.

The Supreme Court ruled on the case twice, both times setting important legal precedents. First, the Due Process Clause requires the court to provide adequate legal representation for defendants. Second, exclusion of African Americans from juries violates the Equal Protection Clause. On April 19, 2013, the Governor of Alabama officially pardoned the Scottsboro Boys. By that time, they were all deceased.