“‘To See Justice Done’: Letters from the Scottsboro Trials,” an online scholarly resource


Just Launched by University of Alabama graduate Margaret Sasser (M.A. in American Studies, 2014) and Dr. Ellen Griffith Spears, associate professor in New College and the Department of American Studies, and the Alabama Digital Humanities Center: “‘To See Justice Done’: Letters from the Scottsboro Trials,” an online scholarly resource for researching social justice and African American history.

In 1931, in the Depression Era South, nine young African Americans hopped a train in a Chattanooga freight yard and headed west in search of a better life. After a fight between whites and blacks on the train, the black teenagers were jailed in Scottsboro, Alabama, falsely accused of rape, and sentenced to die. The Scottsboro Boys’ cases, as they became known, focused an international spotlight on Jim Crow in America in the 1930s and stirred demands for racial justice in the U.S. South. The trials led to two influential Supreme Court decisions, extending the right to competent counsel and ruling illegal the exclusion of African Americans from jury pools. The Alabama legislature fully exonerated the Scottsboro defendants in 2013. However, echoes of the cases resound in the criminal justice system to this day.

In a new online exhibit, “‘To See Justice Done’: Letters from the Scottsboro Trials,” University of Alabama faculty and students have collaborated with the ADHC, a division of UA University Libraries, the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH), and the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center to share a sampling of thousands of letters, petitions, and telegrams sent to Alabama governors during the early 1930s, most demanding freedom for the nine young men. These archival materials provide a valuable research tool, a searchable database with primary resources for students and scholars of the long black freedom struggle in the United States.

The online digital exhibit project also received support from the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, the Summersell Center for the Study of the South, New College, and the departments of American Studies and History.