November 7, 1932
In Powell v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the original guilty verdicts given to the nine Scottsboro Boys by an all-white jury. Falsely accused of raping two white women on a train, the Scottsboro Boys were not given access to a lawyer until shortly before the trial, with little time to prepare a legal defense. The Supreme Court’s ruling declared that the right to be represented by a lawyer with adequate time to prepare for trial was fundamental to a fair trial. The ruling was the first time the court had reversed a state criminal conviction for a violation of a criminal procedural provision of the U.S. Bill of Rights.
Read more at http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-1456
Jackson County Courthouse in Scottsboro, 2010. (The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
The defense displays a mock-up of the train on which the alleged crimes occurred during the trial of Heywood Patterson in Decatur, Morgan County. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of the A. S. Williams III Americana Collection, the University of Alabama Libraries)
Ruby Bates, along with Victoria Price, falsely accused nine young African American men of rape on a train in Jackson County in 1931, a situation that developed into one of the most glaring examples of legal injustice in the Jim Crow South. Bates later recanted her testimony and advocated for the men, known in the media as the “Scottsboro Boys.” (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, photograph by the Brown Brothers)
Left to right: Ozzie Powell, Willie Roberson, Clarence Norris and Andy Wright. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, property of The Birmingham News)
Scottsboro Boys Museum. (The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.