During the 1930s, in the deep south of America, in the period of the Great Depression, one of the most dramatic examples of racial discrimination took place. This crime, even though never committed, went on to bring on the most number of trials and retrials. This was none other than the Scottsboro Trials.
It all started on the 25th of March 1931, in a Southern Railroad freight run. Among the passengers in the train, there were two white women, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates, and nine black men, who were going to be later known as the Scottsboro Boys. A stone-throwing fight erupted between the black and white youths. The black youths managed to chase off all of the white youths off the train except one, as Haywood Patterson pulled the last white youth, Orville Gilley, back onto the train, as it was accelerating to a very fast pace. Some of the white men who were forced off the train went to the stationmaster and told him that the black men assaulted them. When the train reached Paint Rock, Alabama, the train was intervened by a group of men with guns. They then rounded up the 9 black men. But then, the situation took a surprising twist when Victoria Price told one of the men that she and Ruby Bates had been raped by the black youths. This is how the infamous Scottsboro Trials started.
Ruby Bates, at that point of time, was guided on the train by Victoria Price to cross the border and become a prostitute, despite being underage. Victoria Price had accused the 9 black men of raping Ruby Bates and herself, as she was afraid of being exposed of bringing an underage girl oven country borders to work as a prostitute. At that time, a doctor was asked to examine the women for evidences of assault, and despite not having any evidence to support their claims, the court readily accepted the fact that they were both raped. Not only that, there were no other witnesses to the supposed 'crime' apart from the two women. As seen from a New York Times excerpt,
"...if she had not concocted the whole story of the mass attack by the negroes and forced Ruby Bates, the other victim of the alleged crime, to corroborate her in order to forestall the danger of her own arrest for vagrancy or a more serious offense..."
Despite the overwhelming evidence against Victoria and Bates, the Scottsboro boys were deemed guilty and sentenced to be executed. This showed the level of racial discrimination during that time and how blacks never could get a fair trial. Further complicating the incident, blacks were not even supported by organizations founded to protect their interests, such as the NAACP.
The Scottsboro Boys also were psychologically and physically assaulted in prison, fearing being lynched by the public, all because of Victoria Price’s false accusation. During the time the Scottsboro Boys were in prison, they were mistreated and even placed in cells where it was said that it was "not fit for men". During the trials, the boys were threatened with death and even the death of their relatives if they did not admit they raped the two girls. The blacks and whites split up and protested by means of mob violence, especially the whites in the neighborhood who gathered to form lynch mobs. However, they were granted numerous appeals and retrials, and despite being deemed not guilty in the end, the trauma that the boys had drove most of them to suicide, and the other survivors lived with mental disorders for the rest of their lives.
The Scottsboro trials was so deeply shaking that it inspired Harper Lee to write To Kill A Mockingbird, a Pulitzer prize winning novel based on the trials. It highlighted the worst of racial discrimination in men, and this shows the need for a racially cohesive society; to stand firm in the face of such shaky grounds, to be united as one entity, to be together as one community.