1935 April 1

Scottsboro Case Conviction Overturned: African-Americans Excluded From Jury


The Scottsboro case, in which nine young African-American men were accused of raping two white women in the little town of Scottsboro, Alabama,, was the most important civil rights issue of the 1930s. It resulted in several landmark Supreme Court decisions. In Patterson v. Alabama and Norris v. Alabama, both decided on this day, the Court ruled that the defendants were denied a fair trial because African-Americans were excluded from the jury pool. Go to March 25, 1931, for the original alleged rape incident, and to November 7, 1932, for Powell v. Alabama, in which the Court overturned Powell’s conviction because he had been denied an attorney at trial. The Scottsboro case controversy continued into the 1950s.

The Supreme Court decisions regarding the Scottsboro cases were major developments, not just in terms of civil rights but also in terms of the role of the Court in establishing constitutional standards in the criminal justice system. The Scottsboro case finally came to an end 80 years later, when Alabama issued posthumous pardons to three of the defendants, on November 21, 2013.

Read: Dan T. Carter, Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South (1969)

Douglas O. Linder: “No crime in American history — let alone a crime that never occurred — produced as many trials, convictions, reversals, and retrials as did an alleged gang rape of two white girls by nine black teenagers on the Southern Railroad freight run from Chattanooga to Memphis on March 25, 1931.”

The quote and more about the case: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/scottsboro/scottsb.htm

Visit the Scottsboro Case Historical Marker, Jackson County Courthouse, Scottsboro, Alabama.

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