Three of the “Scottsboro Boys” were posthumously pardoned by the Alabama Parole Board Thursday, bringing some closure to a case that symbolized racial prejudice.
Charles Weems, Andy Wright, and Haywood Patterson were pardoned in the case that spawned books and movies and helped to change the court system, The Associated Press reports
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In Alabama in 1931, nine black males were convicted by all-white juries of raping two white women. They were not guilty. All but one, the youngest, were sentenced to death. Eventually, five convictions were overturned and one man, Clarence Norris, was pardoned before he died in 1976. At the time, posthumous pardons weren’t allowed by Alabama law, so nothing else was done for the other men.
This year, the Alabama legislature changed the law to allow pardons for older cases when racial discrimination occurred.
“This decision will give them a final peace in their graves, wherever they are,” Sheila Washington, director of the Scottsboro Museum and Cultural Center, told the Montgomery Advertiser
"This is a different state than it was 80 years ago, and thank God for that," state Sen. Arthur Orr told the Advertiser. "It's an important step for our state to take."
It’s unclear what happened to many of the Scottsboro Boys, most of whom moved away and may have even changed their names so people wouldn’t know who they were, the Advertiser said.
James Miller, a professor at Georgetown University who wrote a book about the trial and its horrific effects, told the Advertiser that he’s “cautious about hailing this as a significant stride.”
“I'm very happy this occurred, but the people who would benefit from it are no longer with us, and they have very few descendants left,” he said.
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