November 8, 2022

The Scottsboro Boys Museum Celebrates Its Official Reopening

The newly remodeled Scottsboro Boys Museum will host a public event on Wednesday, November 9, at 1:00 pm to celebrate its official reopening. The museum closed in 2020 at the beginning of the Covid pandemic, then stayed shut for over two years due to the extensive redesign and the untimely death of its executive director, Shelia Washington. The Mountain Lakes Chamber of Commerce will prepare the ribbon cutting ceremony. Admission to the museum will be free for the day.

The Scottsboro Boys Museum tells the story of nine young Blacks who were falsely accused of raping two white women aboard a freight train they had hopped during the Depression. They were tried and sentenced to death in Scottsboro in April 1931. Although the U.S. Supreme Court twice overturned their guilty verdicts, the state continued to reindict. In all, the nine spent a total of 102 years in prison.

The museum is housed in the historic Joyce Chapel and tells the complex story of how nine young African Americans became a symbol for economic and racial oppression and an international phenomenon.  Cities across the globe held protest rallies demanding Alabama to “Free the Scottsboro Boys.”  Luminaries such as Albert Einstein, James Cagney, and Sherwood Anderson were only a few of hundreds of well-known individuals who signed petitions or wrote letters urging the state to release the prisoners. Museum designer and interim director Thomas Reidy states that, “by the mid-1930s the case had grown tentacles that would reach every corner of the globe.”

There was a vibrant cultural response, as well. Poet Langston Hughes wrote four poems and a one-act play about Scottsboro that sold thousands of copies here and abroad. Lithographs, paintings, and cartoons featuring the trials proliferated throughout the decade. Lead Belly and others produced music about the prisoners that played across the country. To some degree, the case inspired Alabama-born Nelle Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird.  In 2010, “Scottsboro Boys, The Musical,” was nominated for ten Tony Awards.

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