More than eighty years ago, on March 25, 1931, nine young African Americans hopped a train in a Chattanooga freight yard and headed west. Unemployed and desperate for a better life, they were not unlike millions during the Great Depression. In Memphis, perhaps, there would be work. Instead, they found themselves joined together at the center of a life and death courtroom drama, falsely accused of rape. The Scottsboro Boys’ cases became an international spectacle spotlighting Jim Crow in America. Now, in 2013, Alabama legislators are proposing two bills
acknowledging that the men were “victims of a gross injustice.” One bill would provide a resolution of exoneration and the other a mechanism for officially pardoning the men.
The Scottsboro Boys Museum University-Community Partnership began in 2010 as a collaboration between the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center in Scottsboro, Alabama, and University of Alabama New College faculty and students to provide historical research for the museum. Students from New College, American Studies, the Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility, the School of Library and Information Studies, and the Department of History assisted the Museum in creating a website (www.scottsboro-boys.org
), researching and designing a map and brochure, and compiling historical information. The effort has been supported by UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP), the Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility, the Department of History’s Summersell Center for the Study of the South, the Department of American Studies, and New College. The project received funding from the Partnerships-in-Scholarship program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Ford Foundation.
With support from a CCBP Award for Excellence in Community Engagement in 2012, UA faculty and students have continued to work with the museum, involving students in archival research at the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH), identifying documents for a digital humanities project. The ADAH archive contains hundreds of letters written to Alabama governors during the 1930s about the Scottsboro cases. The resulting exhibit, “Letters from the Scottsboro Boys Trials: A Digital Exhibit,” a collaboration between the Museum, the ADAH, and the Alabama Digital Humanities Center, will be launched in 2013.
Project Collaborators: Ellen Spears (New College/American Studies), John Miller (New College), Franky Abbott (ADHC), Margaret Sasser (American Studies), Crissie Johson (SLIS/UA Press), Sheila Washington (Scottsboro Boys Museum), Debbie Pendleton (ADAH), Jim Hall (New College), Ann Hataway (New College),