The year was 1931, the place was Alabama, the defendants black ranging in age from 12-19, all nine of them accused of rape by two white women. You don’t have to be a historian to know that the odds were less than favorable for the accused. After being convicted in rushed trials and sentenced to death by an all white jury, several appeals followed. Eventually one of the alleged victims admitted to fabricating her story and recanted her earlier testimony saying that the nine defendants had never touched her or the other woman. Despite this fact, at subsequent trials (three in total) the accused were found guilty yet again. Eventually charges were dropped for five of the nine defendants. If by now you don’t recognize this tale of unfortunate non-fiction, this is the story of the Scottsboro Boys, as they became known.

End to Exclusion of African Americans From Juries

The infamous Scottsborro case is a piece of Supreme Court history in the United States, predominantly due to its holding which brought an end to the exclusion of African Americans from juries; but the case and those involved stand for so much more with respect to the history of this country. For the rest of their lives the Scottsboro nine, despite the former recantation, would fight for their innocence until the last of them passed away in 1989.

Almost 83 years later justice failed to be served, however that is likely to change. Earlier this month proposals from two Democrats and two Republicans were made that would allow the state parole board to grant posthumous pardons (pardons given to a person after death) to the eight Scottsboro Boys who didn’t get pardons before they died. The resolution labels the boys as “victims of a series of gross injustices” and seeks to right the wrongs of some dark times in United States history.

Thus far the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill (in a 9-0 vote). This means that the first barrier has been successfully cleared. Since current state law does not allow for posthumous pardons, the bill must now go through the Senate in order to be confirmed.

Unfortunately some may feel that it is all too late to bring justice to the nine boys, the true victims here. This is certainly a step in the right direction. This legislation, if successful, will serve as an example for progress and a reminder of days gone by.

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