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Scottsboro Boys arrested...
Item # 557821
March 26, 1931
THE NEW YORK TIMES, New York, NY, March 26, 1931
* Scottsboro Boys arrested
* Negroes suspected of attacking 2 white girls
* Right to Attorneys fame
This 56 page newspaper has one column headlines on page 21: "JAIL HEAD ASKS TROOPS AS MOB SEEKS NEGROES" and "Riot Feared in Scottsboro, Ala., After Arrest of Nine, Held for Attacking Girls".
Tells of the arrest of the famous Scottsboro Boys. A small inside page report probably because it wasn't a famous event at the time it was first reported.
Other news of the day throughout. Light browning, otherwise in good condition.
wikipedia notes: The Scottsboro Boys case went to the United States Supreme Court twice and established the principles that, in the United States, criminal defendants are entitled to effective assistance of counsel and that people may not be de facto excluded from juries because of their race.
The case was, in reality, many cases that were tried only in the first instance in Depression era Scottsboro, Alabama in 1931. Of the original nine young black defendants (most of them minors), accused of gang raping two fellow hobo white women on a freight train, eight were quickly convicted in a mob atmosphere in successive trials. The juries were entirely white, their attorneys had little experience in criminal law, and the judge gave them no time at all to prepare their cases. As each case went to the jury, the judge would start the next trial while the previous jury was still deliberating. All but one of these black defendants was sentenced to death on rape convictions. However, the Scottsboro defendants benefited from their two landmark triumphs in the United States Supreme Court mostly from the fact that they were all relieved from the death sentences they received at their first trial in Scottsboro. However, the Supreme Court ruled both times only that the way their convictions were obtained was improper and not that they were innocent. Those convicted spent between six and nineteen years behind bars.
In 1976, after the Scottsboro Boys had served such long prison sentences, oddly enough, it was arch segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace who issued a pardon to the one remaining Scottsboro defendant still subject to the Alabama penal system: Being quoted as saying Bout damn time y'all'
The nine black young men, Haywood Patterson (age 18), Roy Wright (age 12), Clarence Norris (age 19), Andy Wright (age 19), Willie Roberson (age 17), Charlie Weems (age 19), Ozie Powell (age 16), Olen Montgomery (age 17), and Eugene Williams (age 13), were accused of the rapes of Ruby Bates and Victoria Price, which were alleged to have occurred on March 25, 1931, on the Southern Railroad line from Chattanooga to Memphis. On the train that day, catching an illegal (but common) ride (called "hoboing" at the time) on the freight train were the nine black youths, two white women, and a number of white youths. Four of the black youths, Haywood Patterson, Eugene Williams, and brothers Roy and Andy Wright had hoped to find work hauling logs on the Missouri River. The country was in the depths of the Great Depression, so law enforcement mostly turned a blind eye to the many hoboing job seekers. The other black youths on the train came from various places in Georgia and were unacquainted with the other black youths. There were also white hobos on the train, who were also in search of work anywhere they could find it. Among them were Victoria Price and Ruby Bates. They were Huntsville, Alabama residents who had gone to Chattanooga, Tennessee in an attempt to find work in the cotton mills there. Failing to obtain those jobs, they had hopped this freight train back to Huntsville, completely without money.
On March 25, 1931, a fight occurred between the white youths and the black youths. The trouble allegedly began when a white youth stepped on Haywood Patterson's hand as he hung on to the side of a tank car, just west beyond where the train tunnel ran through Lookout Mountain. As a result, an off and on running fight broke out between the black and white youths on the train, that involved name-calling, stone throwing and fisticuffs. The white youths got the worst of it, resulting in most of them being ejected from the slow moving train by the black youths near Stevenson, Alabama. Several of the white youths made their way back to Stevenson and told the stationmaster there about the fight they had had with a gang of black youths and announced they wanted to press charges. The stationmaster at Stevenson called Jackson County Sheriff Matt L. Wann to report the incident. The Sheriff called Deputy Charlie Latham, who lived near the next scheduled stop for the train, Paint Rock, Alabama and told him to deputize as many citizens as he needed to "capture every negro on the train. I am giving you authority to deputize every man you can find." Thus, a posse of some fifty white men armed with shotguns, rifles and pistols prepared for their arrival. Even before the slow moving train had ground to a halt at around two that afternoon, the armed men clamored on board and searched all of its forty eight cars. Within ten minutes they had grabbed all nine of the "raggedly dressed" black youths they found on the train." They arrested them at gun point. The initial arrest was for the assault and attempted murder of the white youths ejected from the train at Stevenson.
Ruby Bates & Victoria Price in 1931
The posse also was surprised to find on the train illegal passengers, Ruby Bates and Victoria Price, dressed in men's overalls covering dresses and other clothes. When discovered, they scrambled out of the open gondola car used to haul gravel, sometimes called "chert", where they had been riding. They ran in the direction of the engine, where they ran into other members of the posse coming the other way. They turned and started to run back in the other directions where other members of the posse stopped them. The older, Victoria Price "appeared to be on the verge of fainting". Seeing that, Deputy Latham ordered some of the men to take them to wait in the shade of a nearby gum tree, while they tied their black charges all together with a plow line. They hauled all of the roped black youth on the back of a flatbed truck to the "decrepit" two-story jail some twenty miles away in Scottsboro, Alabama.
Twenty minutes after the train chugged away from Paint Rock, its station agent W. H. Hill asked the women whether any of the "negroes" had bothered them. At that point, Ruby Bates told Hill that they had been raped by them. Agent Hill quickly reported that accusation to Deputy Latham. Upon hearing this accusation, Sheriff Wann sent the women to be examined by two doctors. Scottsboro doctor, R. R. Bridges and his assistant, Dr. John Lynch, examined them within two hours after the alleged rapes. The doctors found semen in the vaginas of both women. Ruby Bates had considerably more than Victoria Price. However, while they found some scratches and a few bruises, the doctors found little evidence of a violent attack on them. For instance, they found no vaginal tearing for either woman. Bates and Price were arrested and kept in jail for several days, pending charges of vagrancy. Probably on a tip from the mother of underage Ruby Bates the authorities initially looked into whether Price had violated the Mann Act, which prohibited taking a minor across state lines for "immoral purposes" — in this case prostitution. It was alleged that Victoria Price was a "known prostitute", which led law enforcement to suspect that Price had violated the Mann Act when she left Tennessee for Michigan with Bates. However, as the focus of law enforcement shifted to their African American prisoners, these charges were never filed and the women were released. This widely shown photo shows the two women shortly after the arrests in 1931, still in their hobo dress and still on very friendly terms.
Sheriff Matt Wann
In the Jim Crow South, a black male was said to risk lynching by just looking at a white woman. Word quickly spread and a lynch mob gathered in front of the jail in Scottsboro and prepared to storm the jail to lynch the youths. The crowd of farmers, so called "drachers", with many of their wives and children standing back and looking on, grew into the hundreds. Although newly elected in 1931, Sheriff Wann barricaded the door to the jail. At 8:30 that evening, he decided to move the accused youths to a jail in another community, but could not, because someone had cut the wires to the headlights on the squad cars. Mayor James David Snodgrass begged the crowd to leave. However, they refused and demanded that the youths be surrendered to them for immediate lynching. Given the situation, and at the request of an alarmed Johnson County Sheriff, Matt L. Wann, the Governor of Alabama, Benjamin M. Miller, was forced to call in the National Guard to protect the jail. Authorities pleaded against mob violence by promising speedy trials and asking "the Judge to send them to the chair". The editor of the local Scottsboro Progressive Age was very self congratulatory that Scottsboro had not lynched these defendants outright. The editor wrote, "If ever there was an excuse for taking the law into their own hands, surely this was one. Nevertheless, the People of Jackson County have saved the good name of the county and state by remaining cool and allowing the law to take its course."
Category: The 20th Century