The Scottsboro Boys: The Most Unfair Trials?

The Scottsboro Boys were a group of nine African American teenagers accused of raping two white women on a train in 1931. The trials lasted from 1931 – 1937. The fight started when a group of white men tried to push one of the black men off, claiming that the train was for whites only. It started a fight between the whites and the blacks. The train was stopped, and two white women, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates, didn’t want to get caught for not buying train tickets, so they blamed the Scottsboro Boys of rape. The Scottsboro Boys’ trials weren’t fair at all because they had them in front of biased judges and audiences, had lying witnesses in them, and had negative effects on their lives afterwards.

 

The Scottsboro Boys’ trials were in front of a biased all-white jury and audience, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the chance of them winning the trials. During the Scottsboro Boys’ third trial, Judge William Callahan took over for Judge Horton. Callahan was much less fair than Horton and actually worked against the boys blocking their lawyers every chance he got. The University of Missouri-Kansas City notes, “Callahan denied almost every motion of the defense, including a motion to quash the indictments because Negroes were excluded from jury rolls and a motion for a change of venue.” This shows that Callahan was biased towards white people and removed every black person from the jury. He also denied everything that the defendants requested. During Haywood Patterson’s trials, he notes that the entire courtroom was full of white people and had no black people in it. Patterson said, “‘The courtroom was one big smiling white face.’” This shows that the audience, as well as the jury, was all white because Haywood Patterson is describing the courtroom from his his eyes, which only had white people in it. On the 30th of March, the jury charged all nine of the Scottsboro Boys with rape. In the article The Scottsboro Boys Injustice in Alabama by Jay Bellamy, it states, “On March 30, an all-white jury handed down indictments charging the defendants with rape.” This shows that the entire jury only consisted of white people and had no African Americans in it whatsoever. There were completely white and biased juries and audiences in the Scottsboro Boys’ trials.

 

All the Scottsboro Boys’ trials had lying witnesses in them. In a letter Ruby Bates sent to her boyfriend, Earl Streetman, she admits that she was not raped and that she was going to tell the truth. The University of Missouri – Kansas City notes, “. . . Bates later recanted her story of rape aboard a Chattanooga to Memphis freight train, and went on to actively campaign for the release of the jailed black defendants.” This shows that Ruby Bates was lying because she admitted she was wrong, and she joined the campaign to get the jailed Scottsboro Boys out. Victoria Price, however, did whatever she could to not get in trouble, so she lied and acted oblivious to get what she wanted. Also in the article The Scottsboro Boys Injustice in Alabama by Jay Bellamy, it states, “. . . on the testimony of Victoria Price, who was often evasive in her answers, pretended not to understand the question, or flat-out lied.” This shows that Victoria Price did what she could to stay out of trouble and made sure that the Scottsboro Boys were proclaimed guilty. In order to avoid being charged for not paying for train tickets, Ruby Bates and Victoria Price claimed to have been raped. Jay Bellamy writes in The Scottsboro Boys Injustice in Alabama, “Fearful of being charged with vagrancy due to their failure to purchase a train ticket, the two accused the prisoners of rape.” This shows that the accusers, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates, were lying so that they didn’t have to get in trouble for not buying the tickets. All the witnesses and accusers lied in the Scottsboro Boys’ trials.

 

The Scottsboro Boys were eventually released from prison due to insufficient evidence for guilt. However, it had a negative effect on their lives. Haywood Patterson escaped jail multiple times. He was in a situation at a bar in Detroit that involved someone’s death. This occurred in 1947. In Patterson’s brief bibliography, it states, “Patterson escaped prison twice, including once in 1947 after which was arrested in Detroit after a bar fight ended in a man’s death. Patterson died in a Detroit prison in 1952 at the age of 39.” This shows that the trials had a negative effect on Haywood Patterson because he kept getting put in prison over and over again. Roy Wright killed himself when he came back from his duty in the Marines, where he found his wife with someone else. He shot and killed her, then himself. In Wright’s brief bibliography, it states, “He later served in the Army, joined the merchant marine, and married. In 1959, Roy returned home from a tour of duty and found his wife with another man. He killed her and then shot and killed himself.” This shows that the trials had a negative effect on Roy Wright because he wouldn’t done such things if he hadn’t been through all of the drama of the trials. Ozzie Powell was in a car with two other Scottsboro Boys with the deputy in the front with the sheriff. Powell and the deputy got into an argument, in which the deputy hit Powell on the head. Powell took a knife that hadn’t been detected during a search of his pants and slashed at the deputy’s throat. The sheriff then stopped the car, got out, and shot Powell. The bullet got stuck in his brain. He survived, but it caused permanent brain damage. In Powell’s brief bibliography, it states, “Powell was shot in the head by a guard in 1937 after he stabbed the officer during a prison transfer. He survived. He was paroled in 1946 and went to live in his native Georgia.” This shows that the trials had a negative effect on Ozzie Powell because if he hadn’t been accused of rape, he wouldn’t  have permanent brain damage. After the Scottsboro Boys got released, you could see that the trials didn’t have positive effects on them.
The trials had all-white biased juries and audiences, as confirmed by a bibliography of Judge William Callahan, Haywood Patterson, and part of a newspaper article. All the trials had lying witnesses, as confirmed by the biographies of Ruby Bates and Victoria Price, as well as one of the newspaper article. The trials had negative effects on the Scottsboro Boys, as confirmed by the  aftermaths of Ozzie Powell, Roy Wright, and Haywood Patterson.

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