JF Ptak Science Books Post 2315
I'm here again with The Nation, a marvel of social reporting and interpretation. I was recently able to have 40 years of it come my way, and I have the luxury of sitting down with the odd volume and breezing through it--though it isn't much of a breeze. It is shocking to me how much of what they cover is absolutely new and fresh to me, especially since I thought I knew something about the decades that I'm pushing through right now (1919-1945).
I opened tonight almost immediately to this commentary on the Scottsboro Boys case--and it doesn't take much to figure out what is going on, even if you never heard of it before, This illustrate an article on Haywood Patterson, one of the nine African American teenagers who were accused of raping two white women in the state of Alabama in May 1931 and the legal morass and bitter institutional racism that he and the rest of the accused had been dragged through. It is a complicated set of cases --but the fact that there were trials and that there was some sort of legal sensibility to the matter was in itself noteworthy, because the case was highly inflammatory, enraging parts of the population who wanted immediate justice-and-punishment.
That didn't happen in public, but it could be argued that is what was attempted by the Alabama criminal justice system--a judicial lynching. The cases of these men went back and forth for a number of years, the men being convicted, and then sentenced to death by electrocution, and then appealing, and finding parts of the judgment overturned, and then starting again, finishing again, overturning again, and other complications.
The cases made their way through to 1935 with sentencing in 1937, at which point the death penalties were overturned, but replaced by long prison sentences.
Haywood Patterson escaped the electric chair, but was sentenced to 75 years for a crime for which there was no evidence. He wound up escaping in 1948, and wrote a book about his case (The Scottsboro Boy) in 1950; soon afterwards he was in a bar where he had an argument with a man and knifed him to death; Patterson was subsequently arrested and convicted of manslaughter, and would die of cancer in prison in 1952.
Mr. Patterson was evidently the first Afircan American in the history of such cases in the state of Alabama to not be executed for the crime.
[Image source: "The South Speaks", by John Henry Hammond, Jr., in The Nation, April 26, 1933, opposite page 465.]
Lead Belly's Scottsbor Boys":
[Source: NBC News. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/other/alabama-pardons-scottsboro-boys-after-82-years-f2D11634806]
"In this May 1, 1935 file photo, attorney Samuel Leibowitz, second left, meets with seven of the Scottsboro defendants at the jail in Scottsboro, Ala. just after he asked the governor to pardon the nine youths held in the case. From left are Deputy Sheriff Charles McComb, Leibowitz, and defendants, Roy Wright, Olen Montgomery, Ozie Powell, Willie Robertson, Eugene Williams, Charlie Weems, and Andy Wright. The black youths were charged with an attack on two white women on March 25, 1931."--Source as above.
[Source: Emory University, here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmsYLmqx3wg]