Scottsboro Boy by Haywood Patterson and Earl Conrad should not be an obscure book that is difficult to find! As the tagline states, it is “the story that America wanted to forget.” Indeed, America did forget. Since starting this book a month ago, I’ve talked with at least a dozen people about it and over half had no idea who the Scottsboro Boys were, much less the tragically unfair and inhumane treatment they received in Southern courts and prisons for decades.
There were 9 Scottsboro Boys and this book is the story of one of them, Haywood Patterson, in his own words.
Haywood was 18 years old when, in 1931, he was falsely accused of raping two white women after being involved in a fight between 8 other Black teenagers and some White teenagers. He and other 8 Black teens were also convicted and sentenced to death or life in prison. Haywood spent over half of his life in prison before finally escaping in 1949.
In 1950, he and Earl Conrad (an accomplished author and journalist) wrote this autobiography together. The majority of the book concerns Haywood’s life in some of the worst prisons of the South. He does not mince words, try to blur details, or massage the truth. It is a hard look at an equally hard life behind bars — a hard life that was made even more dangerous due not only to the color of his skin, but because of his stigma as a “Scottsboro Boy.”
I believe this is a must read for everyone. No one — especially no American — should be ignorant of this travesty of injustice. They should compare it to eerily similar contemporary accounts that prove the United States is not as progressive nor as devoted to the idea that “all men are created equal” as we say we are.
And now on to Clarence Norris’ autobiographical account of the same events, The Last of the Scottsboro Boys.
ACLU History: The Tragedy of the Scottsboro Boys https://www.aclu.org/other/aclu-history-tragedy-scottsboro-boys
History.com: Scottsboro Boys https://www.history.com/topics/great-depression/scottsboro-boys
National Museum of African American History & Culture https://nmaahc.si.edu/blog/scottsboro-boys
PBS’s American Experience: Who Were the Scottsboro Boys? https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/scottsboro-boys-who-were-the-boys/
The New York Times: Alabama Pardons 3 ‘Scottsboro Boys’ After 80 Years https://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/22/us/with-last-3-pardons-alabama-hopes-to-put-infamous-scottsboro-boys-case-to-rest.html