The Scottsboro Boys Museum / Scottsboro Multi-Cultural Foundation tells the story of nine young Blacks who were falsely accused of raping two white women aboard a freight train they had hopped during the Depression. They were tried and sentenced to death in Scottsboro in April 1931. Although the U.S. Supreme Court twice overturned their guilty verdicts, the state continued to reindict. In all, the nine spent a total of 102 years in prison.
The museum is housed in the historic Joyce Chapel and tells the complex story of how nine young African Americans became a symbol for economic and racial oppression and an international phenomenon. Cities across the globe held protest rallies demanding Alabama to “Free the Scottsboro Boys.” Luminaries such as Albert Einstein, James Cagney, and Sherwood Anderson were only a few of hundreds of well-known individuals who signed petitions or wrote letters urging the state to release the prisoners. Museum designer and interim director Thomas Reidy states that, “by the mid-1930s the case had grown tentacles that would reach every corner of the globe.”
There was a vibrant cultural response, as well. Poet Langston Hughes wrote four poems and a one-act play about Scottsboro that sold thousands of copies here and abroad. “Scottsboro Boys, The Musical,” was nominated for ten Tony Awards.