The last of the Scottsboro Boys were pardoned on Thursday morning by Alabama’s parole board. Although it took 80 years, the men’s names were officially cleared by the state.
In 1931, nine black teens were charged with assaulting and raping two white women on a train. Each man was eventually found guilty by an all-white jury. Eight of the men were sentenced to death.
When the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the International Labor Defense organization heard about the case, they raised money to file an appeal.
In 1932, the Supreme Court ruled that the defendants were denied their right to legal representation. The were each appointed counsel and granted new trials. During the retrials, one of the reported victims came forward to admit she was never raped.
Despite the confession, Clarence Norris, Charles Weems, Andy Wright, Haywood Patterson, and Ozzie Powell were sentenced to time in prison.
The rape charges against Olen Montgomery, Willie Roberson, Eugene Williams, and Roy Wright were dismissed.
In 1976, Norris was pardoned by former Governor George Wallace. In 1989, the last of the Scottsboro Boys died.
Through the years, it became widely accepted that the men were innocent. However, they were never formally cleared of the crimes. Earlier this year, Senator Arthur Orr pushed for a law that would permit posthumous pardons.
With passage of the law, Alabama’s parole board was presented with the 1931 rape case. This morning, they voted to officially pardon Haywood Patterson, Charles Weems, and Andy Wright.
Senator Orr said the pardons are a “promising reminder of how far we have come from those regretful days in our past.”
Shelia Washington, who founded a museum in the men’s honor, said the parole board’s ruling will “give the history books a new ending.” She has spent years collecting and preserving information about the men, their trial, and their lives.
Washington said she founded the Scottsboro Boys Museum museum to so future generations can continue to learn from the past.
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