The Text of the Life Photo-Essay
SCOTTSBORO BOYS ONCE MORE ON TRIAL
Alabama now hopes for an end to this old case
On July 6 at Decatur, Ala., two young Negroes named Clarence Norris and Charlie Weems were arraigned on a charge of raping two white women, held for trials on July 12 and 13 respectively. The courtroom was sparsely filled. The Birmingham News had sent no reporter. Most Alabama newspapers buried the story on inside pages. No reason of obscurity or unimportance accounted for this apathy. It was simply that Alabama has grown hearty sick and tired of its world-famous Scottsboro Case.
Since the March day in 1931 when Clarence Norris, Charlie Weems and seven other stripling blackamoors were taken off a freight train at Paint Rock, Ala., near Scottsboro, and accused of raping two white females vagrants named Victoria Price and Ruby Bates, the Scottsboro Case has wound through an expensive and apparently interminable series of trials. All of the Scottsboro boys except Roy Wright, the youngest, have been condemned to death at least once, and the lives of Norris and Haywood Patterson have twice been saved by the U.S. Supreme Court. From the beginning the Boys themselves were obscured in the miasma of old hatreds which arose when Northern liberals and Communists rushed down to defend them as martyrs to Southern injustice and intolerance, and Alabamians struck back at the malicious interference of Yankees, Reds and Jews. But after six years, tempers on both sides have cooled. The longtime prosecutor, Lieutenant Governor Thomas E. Knight Jr., died last May. The defense attorney who so infuriated the South, famed Samuel Leibowitz of New York, made no appearance at the arraignment. Last month the Montgomery Advertiser, which long howled for the Boys' blood, spoke for many an Alabamian when it called for a compromise which would end the case for good, declaring: "Scottboro has stigmatized Alabama throughout the civilized world."
The current series of trial is scheduled to progress at the rate of two Boys per week for four weeks. (Patterson, tried last year, is under a 75-year sentence.) Whatever their fate, the Scottboro Boys whose Birmingham jail portraits appear on the pages, are already assured a place in U.S. history.
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