The reaction to the conviction of the nine young black men on rape charges that were patently untrue, sparked a reaction all over the country.

Rich, poor, black and white protested the decision and the death sentences handed down to the young men. Aided by the participation of the parents of the boys, the movement to free them flourished. Demonstrations were held all over the country, including the south. Below is a chronology of some of the major protests held.



Compiled by the International Labor Defense



April 9 - First big Scottsboro Protest mass meeting was held in Harlem at St. Luke's Hall.

April 25 - The first big Scottsboro Protest Parade in Harlem was held and smashed up by the police.
Mrs. Patterson, mother of Heywood Patterson, arrived in New York to begin the national protest campaign. She spoke before a meeting of 1,000 workers.

May 3 - First big Southern mass meeting was held in Chattanooga, Tenn.

May 7 - Mrs. Ada Wright, mother of two of the boys, arrived in New York.

May 16 - 6,000 workers paraded in a Harlem Scottsboro demonstration.

May 25 - Scottsboro conference attended by 19 organizations was held in Chattanooga, Tenn.

May 31 - First all-Southern Conference, held in Chattanooga, Tenn., attended by 200 delegates. Four arrests were made outside the hall.

June 27 - 5,000 Negro and white workers paraded through the streets of Harlem in a Scottsboro protest demonstration.

June 28 - Mrs. Ada Wright was excluded from a mass meeting held by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P.) in Pittsburgh, Pa.


June 19 - The U.S. Supreme Court issued a writ of Certiorari and an order suspending the death sentences and a stay in the proceedings in the cases of the seven boys.

Sept. 1 - The I.L.D. announced that 150,000 postcards demanding the immediate and unconditional release of the Scottsboro boys had been sold and mailed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Oct. 3-10 - National Scottsboro week arranged by the I.L.D.

Oct. 10 - Mother Mooney and a delegation went to the Supreme Court to hear the appeal.
Nation-wide Scottsboro demonstrations. The I.L.D. National Convention opened in Cleveland, Ohio, with Scottsboro defense as the keynote.

Oct. 18 - Tom Mooney from behind the bars of San Quentin prison appealed to all workers to fight for the fight for the freedom of the Scottsboro boys.


Apr. 29 - For the first time, Ruby Bates appears before an audience to tell her story, 5,000 listen enthusiastically.

May 1 - 150,000 workers of all races and nationalities march to Union Square in stirring Scottsboro parade.

May 8 - 3,000 Scottsboro marchers converge upon Washington, D.C. bearing petitions signed by 200,000 other workers. They are joined by 2,000 Washington protesters, Led by Mother Patterson, the 5,000 march to the White House, despite the petty persecution of motorcycle officers "gunning" their motors to envelope the marchers in exhaust gases and oily smoke.
Their demands- the release of the Scottsboro boys. The release of Tom Mooney. Equal Rights for Negroes-embodied in a "Bill of Rights" prepared by the League of Struggle for Negro Rights.
Their visits- to President Roosevelt, who refused to see them. Demands presented to Louis Owe, Roosevelt's Secretary: to Vice President Garner of Texas, who amply shows his complete unsympathy with the demands; to Congressman Rainey of Massachusetts; to Oscar de Priest, Negro Congressman from Chicago.
All these representatives of the entrenched parties and the interest of big business shoed beyond mistake that their only immediate concern was to get rid of the embarrassing marchers as soon as possible.

July 15 -Mooney writes letter from San Quentin hailing victory in case of Heywood Patterson.

July to November - Mrs. Janie Patterson, mother of Heywood Patterson; Lester Carter, defense witness; Richard B. Moore, Negro orator and organizer, tour Midwest and Far West on behalf of Scottsboro boys.
These tours bring the message of the Scottsboro fight to new scores of thousands of white and Negro workers throughout the country. July to October - Ruby Bates, Mother Wright tour West and Middle West on behalf of Scottsboro boys.

Aug. 1 - Negro frame-up victims, Dan Pippen, A. T. Harden, murdered in Tuscaloosa, with tacit and active assistance of Judge Henry Foster, Sheriff R. L. Shamblin and "the law." I.L.D. attorneys attempting to defend frame-up victims, run out of town barely escape lynchers.

Aug. 22 - Mother Wright, Ruby Bates speak in Pittsburgh and elsewhere.

Aug. 26 - Mounting wave of lynchings and terrorization in South part of N.R.A. program. Terror directed particularly against Negro share-croppers, small farms, agricultural workers-who are victimized by NRA and cotton plow-under policies.

September - Ruby Bates has toured more than 50 cities speaking. Insists on going through with program despite great strain 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."

Oct. 17 - Chattanooga, Tenn. E. L. Lewis, Negro defense witness for Scottsboro boys dies suddenly. I.L.D. investigation shows he was probably poisoned to get him out of the way. He had been threatened by K.K.K. and emissaries of Attorney-General Thomas E. Knight, Jr.

Nov. 18 -Anti-lynch conference in Baltimore, with more than 700 delegates representing 250,000 persons, raise demand of freedom of Scottsboro boys.

Nov. 24 - Ruby Bates undergoes major operation in a New York hospital.

Nov. 29 - Demonstrations all over U.S. metal workers in New York shop conduct protest strike.


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