Little Known Black History Fact: The Case of the Scottsboro Boys

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Clarence Norris – Sentenced to death (paroled in 1946)
Andy Wright – Sentenced to 99 years in prison
Charlie Weems – Sentenced to 75 years (paroled in 1943)
Willie Roberson – Exonerated
Olen Montgomery – Exonerated
Eugene Williams – Exonerated
Roy Wright – Exonerated
Ozzie Powell – Charged with assaulting a deputy (paroled in 1946)
Haywood Patterson – Sentenced to death (escaped in 1948)

During Powell’s transportation to prison, he managed to get a pen from the deputy and stabbed him in fear of being killed on the way to prison. He was shot in the head but survived with brain damage.

Even though the men were either paroled or exonerated, they carried the stigma of “the Scottsboro boys” throughout their lives. Some developed drinking problems, contracted tuberculosis in prison, suffered from depression and mental illness and one, Roy Wright, shot his wife and committed suicide after returning from the war in 1959.

In 1976, Clarence Norris, obtained a pardon from Governor George C. Wallace and the state parole board.

The legacy of the Scottsboro Boys is within the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center in Scottsboro. It is told first hand in Haywood Patterson’s book “Scottsboro Boy” (1950). The prison escapee was found by the FBI shortly after the book’s publication. Twenty-nine years later, Clarence Norris wrote “The Last of the Scottsboro Boys”. Norris was the last of the group to pass away in 1989.

Now, in a Montgomery, Alabama court, officials are trying to exonerate the wrongly accused men through a posthumous pardon. Two Democratic and two Republican legislators have issued proposals for the legislative session. The proposal that was introduced by Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur is also sponsored by John Robinson (DEM.) of Scottsboro and Laura Hall (DEM.) of Huntsville and Sen. Shad McGill (REP.) of Woodville.

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