The Scottsboro Boys

There was a wonderful documentary on the Scottsboro Boys done by PBS as part of Black History Week. It was evocative of the stories from my childhood as this was a tale of mythic proportions for people on the Left. It began in 1931 as just a local event - some itinerant black kids accused of raping two white girls. Eventually it became an international cause célèbre. But the drama, in retrospect, is even more interesting as it set in motion so many competing forces and because of the period – the depression, the growing strength of the communist movement, the rise of fascism, the retrenchment of the South and the idea of ‘the unfinished revolution’. After seeing the film, I thought what a good novel it would make, based around the conflicts that so inspired an era and yet the victims, the kids caught up in that incredible mess, were used, forgotten and abandoned. Some of the characters are intriguing – the New York Jewish lawyer, so pompous and sure of himself, the Southern judge who took an act of awesome courage during the appeal, the two girls who made the charges – one of whom recanted and actually joined the communist party. Like the Lipski book, it would be a captivating entry into the period.

30 October 02