An exquisitely sensitive portrait of two of the Scottsboro Boys as interpreted by one of the premier artist/illustrators of the Harlem Renaissance. From comparison with contemporary photographs, they appear to be Haywood Patterson and Clarence Norris. In 1931, in the midst of America's Great Depression, riding freight trains was a common mode of travel for both poor whites and blacks. On 25 May 1931, nine black youths happened to be traveling the same freight train from Chattanooga to Memphis as two white women and a gang of white youths. A fight erupted between the whites and blacks and the whites left the train at Stevenson. There, they told the stationmaster that they had been attacked by a gang of blacks. When the train came to the next stop, a posse was waiting and the nine boys were tied together, placed in a truck and taken to Scottsboro for trial, but not before the two white women claimed that they had been raped by the boys. Nearly a decade of trials and retrials followed, ending with death sentences for most of the boys (later commuted to life). One of the women recanted her testimony, but too late to be of service to the innocents. This portrait was probably done in 1935, when Patterson and Norris's convictions had been briefly overturned due to the racially motivated jury selection. This moment of triumph was short-lived however and the courts of Alabama decided to proceed. Almost a year later, Patterson was again found guilty. Norris was paroled in 1946, while Patterson made a spectacular escape in 1948. His book, Scottsboro Boy, was published in 1950. He was re-arrested by the FBI, but the state of Michigan refused Alabama's request for extradition.
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