The Scottsboro Boys underwent court proceedings that lasted some six years. After speedy first trials which ended in the conviction of eight of the nine boys by all-white juries, a lengthy legal battle ensued.

With the communist group International Labor Defense and the NAACP actively involved (the two eventually clashed over the defense of the young men) in the second trial, the case touched on some of the fundamental pillars of American jurisprudence.

This compilation provides a guideline to some of the major events of case from 1931 to 1934.



Compiled by the International Labor Defense



March 25 - Nine Negro boys, the youngest 13, the oldest 21, were taken off a freight train at Paint Rock, Ala., by a sheriff's gang and charged with attacking two white girls, Ruby Bates and Victoria Price.

March 31 - Twenty indictments were returned against the boys. They were arraigned before the court at Scottsboro, Ala., and pleaded not guilty.

April 6 - The trials of the nine boys began at Scottsboro before Judge E.G. Hawkins. Milo Moody was appointed by the court to serve as "defense counsel." Charlie Weems and Clarence Norris were declared "guilty" by the jury. The great crowd assembled before the courthouse, surrounded by state troopers, staged a demonstration of approval with the band playing, "There'll be a hot time in the old town tonight".

April 7 - The jury returned the verdict of "guilty" in the case of Heywood Patterson.

April 8 - Ozie Powell, Eugene Wright, Olin Montgomery, Andy Wright, and Willie Robinson declared "guilty." A mistrial was reported in the case of Roe Wright, age 13. The International Labor Defense entered the case for the first time. The press and the authorities of Alabama issued heated denials of the charges made by the International Labor Defense against them.

April 9 - Death sentences were pronounced on eight of the boys-all except Roy Wright- by Judge Hawkins. They were immediately transferred from Scottsboro to Gadsden by soldiers.

April 18 - Claude Patterson, Mrs. Ada Wright, Mrs. Mamie Williams, parents of the boys and a committee of lawyers from the International Labor Defense jointly employed General Geo. W. Chamlee of Chattanooga, Tenn. to represent the nine boys under a written agreement from all the defendants.

May 5 - Theodore Dreiser and Lincoln Steffens joined the protest against the Scottsboro frame-up.

May 6 - Amended motions for a new trial were filed in Scottsboro, Ala. by Geo. W. Chamlee. Petitions were filed by Claude Patterson and other parents asking for permission to see the boys for the first time since their arrest. A written order to that effect was secured from Judge Hawkins.
Many affidavits concerning the character of Ruby Bates and Victoria Price were filed.

June 5 - Chamlee filed second amended motions for new trials for all of the boys and more affidavits on the character and reputation of the two girls. Judge Hawkins heard oral testimony from jurors in the Scottsboro case regarding the demonstrations that were held outside the courthouse during the trial of Heywood Patterson.

June 13 - The solicitor for the state of Alabama filed affidavits for the state in the cases of the nine boys.

June 22 - Judge Hawkins over-ruled all motions for new trials and the defendants noted an appeal to the Alabama State Supreme Court.

July 17 - Ralph Gray, a Negro sharecropper, was killed, and 5 others wounded at Camp Hill, Ala., as a result of a Scottsboro Protest meeting held there.

Aug. 5 - Chamlee filed bills of exceptions with copies of all the evidence. motions and all proceedings in the clerk's office at Scottsboro.

Nov. 10 - Judge Hawkins signed the bill of exceptions certifying the appeal.

Dec. 29 - Clarence Darrow left Birmingham Ala., having refused to work with the I.L.D.


Jan. 21 - The Supreme Court of Alabama heard the cases of eight of the boys in the courthouse at Montgomery, Ala. The case was argued by the I.L.D. lawyers in the presence of the largest crowd ever assembled at the Supreme Court.

Mar. 24 - The Supreme Court of Alabama over-ruled the motions for new trials- and upheld the judgment of the Circuit Court of Jackson County. Time was set for imposing death sentences on seven of the boys and a new trial granted in the case of Eugene Williams.

Mar. 25 - Petitions were filed in the Supreme Court for a new hearing.

Apr. 1 - Walter H. Pollack entered the case to carry the appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

Apr. 8 - Attorney-General Knight, Jr. ordered all protest telegrams stopped. He said they were obscene and he threatened the telegram companies with "contempt of court' if they continued to deliver them.

Apr. 13 - All petitions were over-ruled and an order for the execution of the seven boys until June 24, 1932.

Apr. 19 - Alabama State Supreme Court granted a stay of execution of the seven boys until June 24, 1932.

Oct. 3 - An "All Southern Civil Rights Conference" was held at Birmingham, Ala. with 300 delegates present.

Nov. 8 - Judge Hawkins set the new trials for all nine boys for March, 1933 term of the Scottsboro court. The International Labor Defense announced that the cases would be fought right back to the United States Supreme Court if necessary.


Jan. 23 - The letter written by Ruby Bates proving that the police forced her to lie at the original trial, was ordered produced in court on insistence. of I.L.D.

Jan. 23 - A hearing on a writ of habeas corpus for the release of Roy Wright was held before Judge J. P. McCoy in Birmingham, Ala.

Jan. 31 - Judge McCoy dismissed the writ of habeas corpus. An order was secured handing over a photostatic copy of Ruby Bates letter to the I.L.D. lawyers.

Mar. 4 - Scottsboro labor jury was picked at March 4th Unemployed demonstrations all over the county.

Mar. 6 - Hearing was held in the original court room of Scottsboro. Ala. before Judge Hawkins on two motions-one for a change of venue and a second to quash the indictment against the boys on the ground that there were no Negroes on the jury that originally condemned them.

Mar. 7 - Change of venue to Decatur, Ala. was granted. The second motion was referred to the Decatur court where the new trial would be held.

Mar. 25 - I.L.D. attorneys argue motion to quash indictments on ground of exclusion of Negroes from Grand Jury. Kenneth Branhart, Professor of Sociology, Birmingham Southern College dropped from faculty for sympathy for Scottsboro boys.
Right to interview defendants without presence of terrorizing guards won by I.L.D. attorneys. Defendants moved from Kilby Prison death cells to Birmingham jail.
I.L.D. attorneys challenge exclusion of Negroes from court room and lynch atmosphere there.
Mar. 27 -Sheriff of Morgan County in which Decatur is located, asks for 30 National Guardsmen, the same men by whom Roy Wright was bayoneted in the face, "to prevent the boys escaping".
National Guardsmen, the same men by whom Roy Wright was bayoneted in the face, "to prevent the boys escaping".

Mar. 28 - Lynch inciting pamphlet "Unpublished Inside Story of Scottsboro Case", hawked outside courtroom. Leibowitz demanding that two men selling it be cited for contempt, read the concluding paragraph: "it is believed that Communists will make a last grand-stand play in behalf of the Negroes in order to win new members and enrich their coffers and then Alabama and the world will see justice claim its own-will see the Negroes receive their just dessert-death in the electric chair. " Judge Horton was obliged to order bailiff to bring the two men into court, and impounded the pamphlet.
Scottsboro trial opens in Decatur. Defense attorneys challenge jury system on grounds of exclusion of Negroes. Negro spectators herded into Jim Crow partition of courtroom while state seeks to prove "no discrimination." Negro citizens testify their qualifications to serve on jury.

Mar. 29 - I.L.D. attorneys call to witness stand Negro residents eligible for jury duty but never called. Will challenge entire Morgan County venire from which Judge James E. Horton has picked 100 prospective jurors.

Mar. 31 - Although he had conceded that burden of proof of "performing its duties according to the law" in selecting jurors was upon the state, and that the defense had presented prima facie evidence that Negroes were not on jury list, Judge Horton arbitrary over-rules the defense motion to quash the jury venire. The defense had previously won the right to have the jury roll produced in court, for the first time in the history of Alabama.
Defense plans to produce miniature replica of the freight train on which attack is alleged to have been made, to prove that such an attack was impossible, and that movements of boys over the train as described by the prosecution witnesses were impossible.

Apr. 1 - Lily-white jury picked from lily-white venire to try Heywood Patterson, first of nine Scottsboro boys to be brought to trial.
Invasion of Decatur by gang of fifty men to "get" Samuel L. Leibowitz, I.L.D. attorney, is announced.

Apr. 3 - Victoria Price, chief prosecution witness, repeats her frame-up statement in court. "I fainted shortly before the train stopped," she said, "and I came to in a grocery store at Paint Rock. My head was aching terribly frostrain on her health. "I can never do enough for the Scottsboro boys to make up for the torture they have gone through in the past two and half years".

Sept. 7 - 21 - Scottsboro meetings arranged for Ruby Bates, and Scottsboro mothers by national office of I.L.D., Frank Spector announces.

Oct. 21 - Scottsboro Trial date set for November 27 in Decatur by Judge W. W. Callahan, Ku Kluzer. (Since April, Decatur has been scene of Negro terrorization: 1 lynched, 2 murdered, one railroaded to death sentence on faked rape charge.

Oct. 25 - Judge Horton removed from further Scottsboro trial, because of his decision granting Heywood Patterson new trial. Judge W. W. Callahan, noted Ku Klux Klan, put in his place by Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Anderson, and Attorney-General Knight.

Nov. 3 - Motion for stay of all proceedings until payment by Alabama of costs of U.S. Supreme Court proceedings is filed in that court.

Nov. 11 - I.L.D. makes public affidavits quoting more than 500 residents of Morgan County, Ala., revealing preparations for lynching Scottsboro boys, witnesses, and lawyers.

Nov. 18 - Judge W. W. Callahan announces no protection will be arranged for Scottsboro boys, witnesses and lawyers at trial scheduled to open Nov. 27.
Ruby Bates reveals threats made to lynch her and members of her family at Huntsville, Ala. if she testifies for the Scottsboro boys again.

Nov. 20 - Boys brought to Decatur under guard of 30 deputies.
Motions for change of venue and for quashing of indictment because of exclusion of Negroes from grand jury, denied. Motion to permit testimony of Ruby Bates, to be taken in deposition form, granted.

Nov. 21 - Judge W. W. Callahan rules out affidavits submitted by I.L.D. to prove prejudice in Decatur.

Nov. 23 - Tampering with Jackson County (Scottsboro) Grand Jury roll discovered.

Nov. 26 - Callahan refused to consider evidence of expert that names of Negroes found on Jackson County grand jury roll were forged.

Nov. 27 - Heywood Patterson faces third lynch-trial before lily-white jury, Callahan refuses to let defense ask Victoria Price essential questions of her activities on the day preceding the arrest of the Scottsboro boys.

Nov. 28 - News of endorsement of lynching by Governor Rolph of California creates tense lynch-atmosphere as Patterson trial continues. State puts Orville Gilley on stand to corroborate statements of Victoria Price.

Nov. 29 - Arguments in Patterson case begin after Judge refuses to wait for arrival of Ruby Bates' testimony, and cuts all defense testimony short.

Nov. 30 - Knight makes lynch speech to jury, admits he is playing on their passions, Case goes to jury.

Dec. 1 - Jury brings in lynch verdict of death against Patterson, as picking of jury for trial of Clarence Norris proceeds. World-wide protests grow in intensity.

Dec. 4 - All-white jury gets Norris case after lynch speeches by Wade Wright, Morgan county solicitor, and Attorney-General Thomas E. Knight.

Dec. 5 - Trials of 5 other Scottsboro boys postpones indefinitely.

Dec. 6 - Lily-white jury brings in "guilty verdict against Norris.
Callahan sentences both Norris and Patterson, to death.


Copyright 2001-, Terry Muse
Revised: November 6, 2001
Contact: Terry Muse