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The Scottsboro Incident

In Scottsboro, Alabama in 1931, nine black youths were accused of raping two white women. They were sentenced to death after being found guilty more than once, but more than 20 years since the incident, all of the men had been set free. On 25 March 1931, nine black youths, two white women and many white youths were on a freight train when an argument between the black and white youths broke out. The white youths left the train and informed the stationmaster at the next station of the fight. The black youths were later held at gunpoint by the police and sent to a prison in Scottsboro. Then, the two white women, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates claimed that several of the black youths had raped them. When gossip spread, a mob gathered outside the prison who wanted to kill the prisoners. The prison was forced to be given extra protection to stop it being stormed. The Scottsboro Boys were defended by a drunk lawyer and another lawyer who was very old and had not defended a case in years. All were convicted and sentenced to death, except one who was given life imprisonment on account of his age of 13. Then came the second round of trials. Between the first and second rounds, the Scottsboro boys were held in prison. Ruby Bates retracted her statement and said that she had lied, yet unbelievably the jury thought that she was now lying and had been paid to do so! Judge James Edwin Horton accepted losing his job to see justice and make sure that Haywood Patterson, who was sentenced to death, was found not guilty. In the third and final round of trials, some of the 9 were convicted of rape, but given life imprisonment, instead of the death penalty. They were eventually released, although Charlie Weems had served over 20 years in prison. Four of the nine had their charges dropped, yet they spent over 6 years in prison on death row without a trial.