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In the 1930s it was not uncommon for the young and unemployed to hitch rides on passing freight trains. Such was the case on March 25 1931 when nine young, boys of African American descent ages 13-21 hopped aboard a train in Tennessee, bound for Paint Rock Alabama. .The nine were not alone on the train, there were also a group of white teenage boys and two white females. It was no smooth ride, shortly after leaving Tennessee, a fight broke out between the both groups of boys.
Rumours have circulated that the white teens were thrown off the train in the frenzy but is suspected they jumped. Angry and seeking revenge, some of the white youth made false reports to authorities that the blacks had assaulted the white women that were still aboard the train. When the train arrived in Paint Rock, the young teens were greeted by the police, everyone was taken into custody including all nine black boys and two teenage girls, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates.
Upon arrest Victoria Price and Ruby Bates confessed to the police all nine boys Olen Montgomery (age 17), Clarence Norris (age 19), Haywood Patterson (age 18), Ozie Powell (age 16), Willie Roberson (age 16), Charlie Weems (age 16), Eugene Williams (age 13), and brothers Andy (age 19) and Roy Wright (age 13) had raped them.
They explained that the men had held down their legs, removed their pants and that six of the nine had engaged in intercourse with them. The young women recounted the craze in the boys eyes as the assaulted them sexually and physically though when examined neither girls showed any signs of trauma.
After a short, shallow and inadequate trial, eight of the Scottsboro boys were sentenced to death by electric chair, with only the youngest Roy Wright escaping the sentence because one juror out of the twelve disagreed.
This outcome angered the public, arguing that this was not a rape case, but in fact a way of oppressing the black. On May 5, 200,000 people gathered in protest to the sentence placed so heavily on the young and innocent Scottsboro boys. The International Labor Defense (ILD) also became involved. The ILD gained support from neighbouring churches and various organizations for integration.
In the following year, the case was issued a re-trial because the Scottsboro boys had not been given access to legal representation. This trial again resulted in the same sentence for the young men as before, but Ruby Bates openly admitted that neither her, nor her companion had been touched by any of the black boys on the train that day.
Again in 1935 the case was reopened in front of a higher court, because in Alabama the jury had specifically excluded African Americans. The boys were cleared, but shortly after the case Victoria price swore a warrant for their arrests.
Thanks to protesters, organizations and people who stood up for them in 1937 that four of the eight still in prison had all charges dropped. The four remaining men who had not been pardoned had all been released from prison at least once by the late sixties. By 1937, they were no longer the Scottsboro boys, but all men who had been forced out of childhood because of the racial hatred that was found in the deep south.