I recently wrote an article about the infamous case of the Scottsboro Boys, nine black American men falsely accused in the 1930s of raping two white women. In writing this story, I faced several challenges. One was to make sense of a case that was extraordinarily complex and that dragged on through the courts for many years. It was extremely easy to get tangled by the sheer number of convictions, appeals, and re-trials. Another challenge was to be fair to all principals in a case rife with dueling prejudices, including stereotypes of black men, anti-Semitism, regional stereotypes, and sexist perceptions.
Conservative black American commentator has compared the injustice suffered by the Scottsboro Boys to the Duke Lacrosse players case. In the former instance, black men accused of raping white women were assumed guilty by much of the public despite scanty evidence of guilt and actual evidence to the contrary. In the second case, white men were assumed guilty by much of the public of raping a black despite a similar lack of evidence. Sowell sees both cases as reflecting racial perceptions of our different time periods.
As I researched the Scottsboro case, I became very emotionally wrenched by it, in part because of the sheer amount of suffering and waste of life that these false accusations Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and the willingness of so many people to believe them Ã¢â‚¬â€œ caused. The accused were mostly teenagers when the accusations were first hurled at them. These innocent men grew up in the purgatory of prison, their lives inevitably warped by the horrors they endured.
My story on this horror is up at http://www.crimemagazine.com/scottsboro_boys.htm
I would appreciate knowing what readers of this blog think of both the case itself and how I handled it.