The Alabama Senate voted February 21, 2013 to pardon the young black men, commonly referred to as “The Scottsboro Boys,” who were convicted more than 80 years ago of raping two white women. The state action is hailed as a progressive move that is long overdue. Nine young black men from Georgia and Tennessee were accused of raping two white women on a train traveling in Alabama, and all of them were convicted in a trial in Scottsboro. One of the women later recanted her allegations.
Because Alabama law does not allow pardons after the death of a convicted person, it requires a legislative act. The action by the Senate is the first part of the formal process to clear the names of the young men who historians say were wrongly convicted by an all- white jury. Arthur Orr, a Republican Senator from Decatur, sponsored the bill and noted that while it does not change history, it is an attempt to right “an unfortunate event in our state history.” The bill will now be sent to the House. The House had earlier passed a resolution which recognized that the Scottsboro Boys were the victims of a gross injustice.
Although justice was not served when it mattered most to these young men and their families, and the belated pardon is bittersweet, at least public vindication will set the record straight.
Virginia Buchanan is a shareholder at Levin, Papantonio. She has served on the Board of Directions of the Florida Bar Foundation and has been Treasurer of ABOTA, Chairperson of the Civil Process Server Grievance Committee and has been a member of the Chief Judge’s Council on Children. She currently is a member of the Women’s Caucus of the Florida Justice Association.