The morning of March 25, 1931 aboard the Southern Rails Corporation freight train, was over two dozen both black and white young adults and teenagers leaving Chattanooga, Tennessee on their way to Memphis looking for work. While on top of one freight car a white boy stepped on the hand of 18 year old Haywood Patterson, he then turned to Patterson and other blacks that was on top of the freight car and said: “this is a white man’s train, all you Nigger’s baster unload”. Not liking what they have heard an fight ensued between the white boys and black boys. The black boys got the better of the white boys and threw them off the train. Word of the fight reached Paint Rock, Alabama before the train did. It was said that a gang of black boys are on a freight train beating up whites. The train was scheduled to stop in Paint Rock, Alabama to take on board water.
The whites gathered guns, ropes, and knives to take on this gang. When the train came to an stop in Paint Rock the posse search each car looking for this gang of black boys, when all of an sudden two white girls emerged from one of the freight car. They were pail and disheveled looking. The posse at first thought they were white boys because their hair was short and the had on men overalls. The posse then came closer and realized they were women and not men, they then ask were they okay and if they have seen any Nigger’s around beating up whites, when one of the women yell “we been raped by some colored boys”.
The posse grew more angry and search for the blacks upon the freight. They found nine black boys and arrested them not on assault charges, but on rape charges. The black boys that was accused was: Charlie Ween age 19, Eugene Wright the youngest age 12, Willie Roberson age 16 Willie could not barely stand because he suffered a severe case of Syphilis, Olen Montgomery age 17 and nearly blind, he was looking for a job to buy a pair of glasses, Clarence Norris age 19 had left behind 10 sibling in rural Georgia in search for a job, Ozie Powell age 16 he was riding in a car alone when found, Andy Wright age 19 and his younger brother Roy Wright age 13 it was Roy first time away from home, and Haywood Patterson age 18, Haywood had been riding the freight train for so long he said he could light an cigarette on the top of the freight car while it’s moving in the wind. Only four of the nine boys knew each other before they were arrested.
The black boys accusers were two white hobo’s (homeless, tramps) named Victoria Price age 21 and Ruby Bates age 18. Price was a homeless whore that traded sex with both black and white men for money and she was teaching Bates the whoring ropes. On March 25, Price was afraid that she was going to be arrested for hoboing, which she had been arrested before for this crime, and told Bates to just repeat what she said.
The posse transported the men to Scottsboro the next town over. While the nine black boys was in jail the sheriff had to call in the National Guard because of an angry white mob came from all over wanting to lynched the boys, but Scottsboro, Alabama wanted to show the world that they could give what they call the color boys a fair trial and the rule of law can prevail over a lynch mob.
On a Monday of May 6, 1931 the trial was to began in Scottsboro County Courts with 200 guardsmen at the courthouse doors to protect the boys from an angry mob.
Unable to get an attorney in Scottsboro, Alabama to represent them the nine boys had to settle for 60 year old Milo Moody an real estate attorney from Chattanooga, Tennessee who was paid $60 that was scraped together by the nine accused parents.
The judge and the prosecutor wanted to speed up the nine trials. They claimed if not that it was going to be violence. Each of the defendants was tried separately, but all in the same day.
Each of the defendants had only an 20 minute meeting with their attorney. The attorney urged the each of the boys to plead guilty.
Patterson was tried first because the prosecutor said he had the look of an rapist.
Victoria Price was called to testify first by prosecution and when she took the stand she gave and chilling account for what happened to her, she said:
“There was six on me and three on her (Bates), one was holding my legs, while the other ravished me. That one sitting behind the defendant counsel took my overalls off. Six of them had intercourse with me. Po to her! Po to her!, they hollered”.
Ruby Bates collaborated Price’s story, but could not identify any of her attackers.
Without good representation and the card stacked against them the boys resulted into lying by blaming the other of committing the crime.
The prosecution then Dr. Bridges, the doctor that examined the girls. Dr. Bridges found no Vaginal tearing (which would have indicated rape). He did find dead sperm inside of Price’s vagina (which indicated she had sex hours before the rape was suppose to have happened, she was a hobo).
The nine boys was all found guilty and sentence to death by electric chair.
After years on death row and constant abuse from the prison guards the some was let free and others was paroled only one had escaped.
Fates of the defendants
After years on death row some of the boys were release and others were paroled and only one escape prison.
- In 1936, Haywood Patterson was convicted of rape and sentenced to 75 years in prison. He escaped in 1949 and in 1950 was found in Michigan, but the governor refused to extradite him. In 1951 he was convicted in an assault and sentenced to prison, where he died of cancer in 1952.
- In 1936, Ozie Powell was involved in an altercation with a guard and shot in the face, suffering permanent brain damage. He pled guilty to assault, and the rape charges were dropped. He was paroled in 1946.
- 1937, Charlie Weems was convicted and sentenced to 105 years. He was paroled in 1943 after having been held in prison for a total of 12 years in some of Alabama’s worst institutions.
- 1937, Andy Wright was convicted and sentenced to 99 years. He was paroled and returned to prison after violating parole. He was paroled in New York State in 1950.
- 1937, Clarence Norris was convicted of rape and was the only defendant sentenced to death. Governor Bibbs Graves of Alabama in 1938 commuted his death sentence to life. Given parole in 1946, he “jumped” and went into hiding. In 1976 he was found in Brooklyn, New York. Governor George Wallace pardoned him that year, declaring him “not guilty”. Norris published an autobiography, The Last of the Scottsboro Boys (1979). He died of Alzheimer disease on January 23, 1989.
- In 1937, the state dropped all charges for Willie Roberson, Olen Montgomery, Eugene Williams, and Roy Wright, who had already been in prison for six years.
- Roy Wright had a career in the US Army and Merchant Marine. In 1959, believing his wife had been unfaithful during his tour, he shot and killed her, and shot himself, committing suicide.
- 2013, the state of Alabama issues posthumous pardons for Patterson, Weems, and Andy Wright.