The Scottboro Trials

What was the incident?
The Scottsboro boy with Leibowitz in jail, March 1933
The Scottsboro boy with Leibowitz in jail, March 1933

Everything started on March 25,1931 when a train left from Chattanooga, Tennessee. The train was filled with homeless and jobless people, it stopped in Paint Rock, Alabama and two white women got on. Everyone was surprised to see that women were on the train. Once the train stopped again the women said that nine men had raped them. After two hours they were medically checked. Dr. R. R. Bridges, he testified that while examine they were very clam and had no physical injures, but Price (first women) said she suffered injures to her head and back. Price said she raped by six teenage boys. Dr. R. R. Bridges and Dr. Marvin Lynch (second doctor) did not believe that they was raped by the nine teenagers.

Defense Attorney Samuel Leibowitz, did his research and found that Price was arrested for adultery. Also her neighbors describe her as prostitute. When Ruby (second women) went to the stand as a defense witness, she said that Price and she on the night before had a sexual intercourse with her boyfriend, Lester Carter. Judge Horton wrote saying that both women stories contradict each other.

Who was involved ?

The boys involved were Charles Weems, Clarence Norris, Andy Wright, Ozzie Powell, Olen Montgomery, Eugene Williams, Wille Roberson, Roy Wright, and Haywood Patterson. The women were Vicotria Price and Ruby Bates. The Defense attorney was Samuel Leibowitz. Prosecutor was Thomas Knight.

The Scottsboro boys with national guards
The Scottsboro boys with national guards

Map of where everything happen
Map of where everything happen


• March 25 The Scottsboro Boys are arrested in Paint Rock, Alabama. They are accused of raping Victoria Price and Ruby Bates
• Death Penalty is considered.
• April 6 The trials begin before Judge A.E. Hawkins
• All the boys with the exception of Roy Wright, because of his age, are found guilty and sentenced to the death penalty.
• The NAACP and ICD fight for legal representation.
• The Boys are granted a stay of the execution.

• The Communist Party is set to represent the boys in court.
Eugene William’s conviction is reversed because of his age.
• According to the rights listed under the 14th Amendment, the U.S Supreme court reverses the previous charges.

• A new trial begins.
• The guilty verdict and death sentence is delivered against Haywood Patterson.
• A new trial based on new evidence begins.
• The Scottsboro Boys are again found guilty, sentenced to the electric chair.

• The Alabama Supreme Court upholds the guilty verdict.

• The verdict is found unconstitutional because blacks were denied representation.

• The convictions are upheld again, but the sentence is compromised to seventy five years in prison for Haywood Patterson.

• Although there was talk of a compromise, Clarence Norris, Andy Wright, and Charlie Weems are convicted again. Ozie Powell’s sentence is dropped.
• Charges against Olen Montgomery, Willie Roberson, Eugene Williams, and Roy Wright are dropped. They are free.

• Through either escape or parole through the years, the Scottsboro Boys are eventually all free. Andy Wright is the last to leave the Alabama state prison system on parole.



Charles Weems
Charles Weems
Charles Weems: Charles was nineteen, the oldest of the boys when arrested in March 1931. He was in a fight on the southern Railroad freight train. He was then convicted of rape in his first trial in 1931, and was convicted again in his second trial in 1937. When he was four years old his mother died, and was also the only one to live through childhood beside one other of seven siblings. Charles finished up to the fifth grade, and then got jobs working at a pharmacy. His life in prison was not good to him. During his prison time someone sent him some communist literature in1934, and when the guards found out they beaten and tear-gassed him. Then in 1938 he was stabed by a guard who intended to stab Andy Wright. After he was finally released in 1943 he moved back to his hometown Atlanta and got married and worked at a laundry.

Clarence Norris: Clarence was eightteen when arrested. He was one of eleven children that were born to Georgia sharecroppers. He was in school until the second grade, then began working in the cotton fields. He also worked in a Goodyear plant. Once he began working on the railroad, he ended
Clarence Norris
Clarence Norris
up being one of those who were in the fight in 1931, and was accused of rape and being arrested. While in prison Clarence Norris said the night before his first trial he was taken from his cell and was beaten and was told to turn state's evidence if he wanted to live. At his first trial he said he was the only innocent one but everyone else raped Price and Bates. His second conviction was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, because Alabama's system violated the fourthteen amendment. His third conviction in 1937 he was sentenced to death again, but then Governor Graves changed it to life in prison. When he was first paroled in 1944, he violated his parole by moving to New York. After he returned to prison, he was paroled a second time. He had a job shoveling coal in Cleveland before moving to New York.

Andy Wright: He was also nineteen when arrested in 1931. He was in school until sixth grade, then had to stop to help his mom with work. He ended up
Andy Wright
Andy Wright
driving a truck distrubuting produce. He admitted that he fought with the white boys on the train. When in jail he was beaten by guards as well as inmates. A couple of times he was beaten so badly, he had to be hospitalized. He was finally paroled in 1944. He ended up getting married and getting a job as a grocery truck drivers for two years. He also violated his parole by moving to Alabama in 1946. He ended up getting arrested for four years. He left prison in 1950, and was the last of the Scottsboro Boys to leave prison.

Ozie Powell: He was born in rural Georgia, with only one year of school under his belt. He spent most of his three years working at lumber camps due to arrest. In 1936 Ozie was handcuffed and put into the back of the car with Clarence and Roy, who both were also handcuffed. Ozie started arguing with the deputy. The deputy ended up hitting him in the head, with that Ozie's free hand grabbed his pen knife and slashed the deputy's throat. The
Ozie Powell
Ozie Powell
sheriff stopped the car and shot at Ozie, the bullet which stuck right in his brain. He ended up living but has serve brain damage. In 1938 Governor Graves did not give pre-parole to Ozie because he didn't answer any questions. He was released in 1946.

Olen Montgomery: He was seventeen when arrested in 1931. He was born in Monroe, Georgia, and he attended scool up to the fifth grade. He also
Olen Montgomery
Olen Montgomery
claimed that he was not near the fight and the rape, but that he was riding alone in the tank car near the rear of the train. He stuck to his story so much, by 1937 the prosecutor agreed that he was inoccent, and he realsed him. Before he was realsed he did spend six years in jail.

Eugene Williams: He was thirteen when arrested in 1931. When in prison all he thought about was getting out.
Eugene Williams
Eugene Williams

The state dropped all charges because of his age in 1937.

Willie Roberson: He was seventeen when arrested. He had a terrible case of syphillis and was unable to walk without a cane. Where the rape
Willie Roberson
Willie Roberson
supposedly was he was no where near the area, he was actually in a boxcar near the caboose.He stuck to that story in every trial, so they ended up believing him and released him in 1937.

Roy Wright: Roy Wright was between age of twelve and thirteen when arrested, he was also the youngest of the Scottsboro Boys. He was the brother of Andy Wright. When Roy lived in Chattanooga, he worked in a grocery store. At his first trial he said he was not guilty but did say he saw the other defendants rape the two girls. After he was threatened and beaten by the guards he later admited that he also did rape both girls as well. Roy was kept in jail for six years without retrial. During those six years he kept a bible with him all the time. Alabama ended up dropping all charges in 1937. After his release he joined the army, got married, and got a job with a merchant marine. To see more pictures of anyone who was involved click on the link.

Haywood Patterson: He was eighteen when arrested in 1931. He was born in Georgia. He stopped going to school after the third grade, then started being a delivery boy for a bit. He was tried four times, was convicted, and was sentenced to death three times. He ended up getting seventy five years from his fourth jury. He escaped prison twice, the first time was 1943. He was gone for five days before they found him and returned him. The second time was 1947. While he was working on a prison farm, him and a couple other inmates escaped through the tall corn fields. After almost getting caught a couple of times, he finally made it home to his sister in Detroit.


The Scottsboro trials affected the country by getting people to mainly notice how we were treating the blacks. The NAACP and the ILD helped get the word out by representing the Scottsboro boys in court. By the end of all of it the whole country started to realize about civil rights.

What was the outcome?

From the time that the Scottsboro Boys were arrested, to the time they were released there were several trials. There were times where they were set free due to unconstitutional conditions. By 1937, the charges had been dropped for the nine boys. By 1950 they were all free. Some of the Scottsboro Boys moved to New York, some to Georgia, were they tried to hold jobs, get married and eventually died. If you want to know more about any of the Scottsboro boys, and anyone else click on the link.

Where are they now?

Haywood Patterson died shortly after returning to prison for manslaughter, he died on August 24, 1952 from cancer at the age of thirty- nine.

Charles Weems released in 1943, he moved to Atlanta where he married and held down a job.

Clarence Norris died in Bronx Community Hospital on January 23, 1989 at the age of seventy- six. He was the last of the Scottsboro Boys.

Andy Wright moved to New York.

Ozie Powell released from 1946, he moved back to Georgia.

Olen Montgomery settled for good in Georgia in 1960.

Eugene Williams moved to St. Louis where he had family and sponsors in the year of 1937.

Willie Roberson moved to New York City after his release in 1937.

Roy Wright, in 1959, convinced his wife had been unfaithful to him while he was away at sea, shot and killed her, then killed himself.