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To Kill a Mockingbird/Scottsboro Trials
Excerpt From this Document
- On March 25, 1931, a freight train was stopped in Paint Rock, a small town in Alabama. Nine young African American men who had been riding the rails from Tennessee to Alabama were arrested. Two white women, one underage, accused the men of raping them while on the train.
- Within a month, one man was found guilty and sentenced to death. A series of sensational trials followed based on the testimony of the older woman, a known prostitute. The prostitute was attempting to avoid prosecution under the Mann Act, which prohibited taking a minor across state lines for immoral purposes, like prostitution.
- Although none of the men were executed, a number of them remained on death row for many years. The last defendant was released in 1950.
- Took place in the 1930s
- Took place in northern Alabama
- Began with a charge of rape made by white women against African American men
- The poor white status of accusers was a critical issue
- A central figure was a heroic judge, James E. Horton, a member of the Alabama Bar who overturned a guilty jury verdict against African American men.
- This judge went against public sentiment in trying to protect the rights of the African American defendants.
- The first juries failed to include any African Americans, a situation which caused the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the guilty verdict.
- The jury ignored evidence; for example, that the women suffered no injuries.
- Attitudes about Southern women and poor whites complicated the trial.
About this Document
This is a table that can be filled out (prior to reading the novel) to show the connection between the Scottsboro Trials that occurred in the 1930's and the novel To Kill a Mockingbird.