Scottsboro: Racial Conflict, Sectionalism, Sex, Poverty, and Religious Discord of Epic Proportions

There are very few things that are more volatile in American than the intersection of race, class, religion, and sex. Such are the ingredients of the most unstable explosive device that could ever scottsboro1be concocted in this nation. Honestly, the combination of any of the aforementioned variables is sufficient to bring about a major explosion. This major explosion occurred during Depression Era America in the Scottsboro case. (Part 1 & Part 2)

As depression era America reeled from the abrupt ending of economic prosperity during the roaring twenties, citizens searched for any opportunity to end their personal economic woes, troubles scottsboro4that led many of them to this nation’s railroads. It was this context of seemingly intractable poverty that led nine African-American youths to the rails in search of work. This trip would change their, and the nation’s, lives forever. The alluded to nine individuals would be accused of raping two white women, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates, and find themselves in the middle of a political Tsunami, the likes of which the nation had rarely witnessed.

The problems began on March 25, 1931, when a number of white and black youths were riding on a freight train, traveling to see if they could find work. A fight broke out between a group of black and white hobos, and the whites were thrown off the train. They reported the incident to a stationmaster, who wired ahead for officials to stop the train at a town called Paint Rock. Dozens of armed men rounded up nine black youths and took them to jail. scottsboro2They were about to be charged with assault when two white women, dressed in boys clothing, were discovered hiding on the train. Although there was no evidence connecting the youth to the women, the nine youths were charged with raping the women.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III



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