“Scottsboro Boys” Pardoned After 80 Years

New College faculty John Miller and Ellen Spears were instrumental in the “behind the scenes” work that finally led to the posthumous pardons of three of the African American young men wrongfully accused of rape in the 1930s.

In November the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles voted unanimously to issue the pardons to Haywood Patterson, Charles Weems, and Andy Wright. Earlier this year the Alabama legislature passed a formal resolution exonerating all nine of the Scottsboro Boys. Dr. Spears worked closely with Shelia Washington, director of the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center and the person spearheading the pardons effort. With a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Ford Foundation, Dr. Spears led a group of students in interpreting the historical places associated with the Scottsboro Boys, leading to a website for the Scottsboro Museum as well as promotional materials about the Scottsboro Boys cases.

Professor Miller, an attorney, was key in crafting the language for the legislative resolution exonerating the young men. Quoted in a New York Times article, Miller said, “Alabama has worked as hard as anybody has to make sure that, to the extent that we can amend a legacy that is not flattering, we are trying to do the right things now.”