The Scottsboro Boy’s Case was instrumental in sparking the Civil Rights Movement across the country, and we believe It’s important to remember the trailblazing woman who dedicated her life to telling their story, advocating for historical accuracy, and ultimately responsible for their Posthumous Pardon – passed by Governor Bentley.
Eleven years ago Shelia Washington and the museum’s governing body opened The Scottsboro Boy’s Museum for the very first time. Here, information from the Scottsboro Boys Trials can be found on display at the Museum & Cultural Center. The center opened in 2010 in the historic Joyce Chapel United Methodist Church, adjacent to the same railroad tracks that carried the defendants from Chattanooga to Paint Rock on that fateful day in March of 1931.
The Mission that Ms. Washington envisioned, still remains today. The Scottsboro Boy’s Museum and Cultural Center commemorates the lives and legacy of nine young African American males who, in the 1930s, became international symbols of race-based injustice in the American South. The museum’s mission celebrates the positive actions of those of all colors, creeds, and origins who have taken a stand against the tyranny of racial oppression. Ms. Washington was committed to advancing reconciliation and healing while promoting civil rights and an appreciation of cultural diversity at home, and around the world.
Her legacy lives on, in several projects, including the recent Scottsboro Boy’s Mural dedication – that you can now visit.
A HISTORY REVEALED
The Scottsboro Boy’s case led to two landmark Supreme Court decisions – on the right to adequate counsel and on jury diversity. None of the boys were executed, but all served at least six years in prison and one as long as 19 years. All nine strangers were traveling on a southbound train in the week of access to a better life. Instead, all nine were arrested and falsely charged with rape. Today, the community has embraced the museum and the newly painted & installed mural to show America what happens when individuals come together in the name of justice.
One of the things we need to do in healing is accepting the wrongs that were done & Scottsboro needs to be looked upon around the Country as a place where justice and a unified front can be found.
William Hampton – Scottsboro Boy’s Museum & Cultural Center, Board Member
A UNIFIED FIND
During the 2021 historic dedication of the new Scottsboro Boy’s Mural, we had the pleasure of hearing from the famous – Don Howard – and mural designer.
I thank God, and the City of Scottsboro for allowing me to be part of such a historic event. During the process, I got a call from a gentleman in London, England who works for a major University. While conducting a historical review of one of the most famous cases in history for the United States Justice Department – The Scottsboro Boy’s Trial – he said the following. “For a small southern town to look at a past that was thrust upon them because of circumstances, to shrug their shoulders and say we aren’t going to look at the past, but march into the future together” – the world is watching.
As one of the greatest Civil Rights Story’s to come about in the past 50 years, Scottsboro realizes the collective community decision to turn the to the future in unity!
Needless to say, this has been a time of great division in this county. But for a small southern town to say “let’s go a different way, let’s go forward in unification.”
A LABOR OF LOVE
I met Ms. Shelia back in 2019 when I started working as the Sand Mountain Bureau Reporter for WAFF 48. I had never heard of the Scottsboro Boys story until I met Ms. Shelia and when I did I knew it was a divine appointment orchestrated by God. She was passionate, a servant leader and a woman of faith. She worked so hard to ensure that the story of the Scottsboro Boys would be told and fought to get the resources and funding to keep the museum doors open. Her strength gave me the courage to use my platform as a journalist and help raise awareness on the racial injustices that the Scottsboro Boys went through and unfortunately are still present now. Two days before Ms. Shelia passing I interviewed her about the museums renovations and fundraising goal. I promised her I would help raise awareness and keep the work she did alive to educate the community. So, it warms my heart to see the Scottsboro Boys Mural as it is only a small fragment of Ms. Shelia’s Labor of Love, but I’m excited for what to come to help honor her and keep her legacy alive.
This very sentiment sums up Ms. Washington’s hope for the life’s work she poured into the Scottsboro Boy’s Museum & Cultural Center. We hope the world understands the weight & historical significance of her work and the installation of the new mural!
Thank you to the Scottsboro Boy’s Museum Board, and Main Street Scottsboro for coordinating a historical vision. Thank you to the Lackey Law Firm for allowing the City of Scottsboro to display a historic piece of art across the street from the historic courthouse where the Scottsboro Boy’s trial initiated.