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AAST 220: Scottsboro, An American Tragedy Discussion Questions

AAST 220 – Discussion Questions

Scottsboro Boys: An American Tragedy

1. Why was it impossible for Samuel Liebowitz, the best criminal attorney in the U.S. to win a trial in the South?

2. What is the superior force that he both underestimates and is up against

3. Discuss and explain the power and the role of myth in the creation of this tragedy?

a. Myth: A popular belief or tradition that has grown up around something or someone, especially a belief that embodies the ideals and institutions of a society or segment of society

4. How did the Scottsboro Case rekindle the unresolved tensions of the civil war and a failed reconstruction?

5. What were the trials never about – but should have been? How could half of the boys be guilty and the remainder innocent?

6. Why were the boys tried four times? What was the Supreme Court powerless to do?

7. What occurs socially between non-southern whites and blacks when Judge Horton sets aside the guilty verdict and orders a third trial?

8. How does the state of Alabama respond to national and international pressure?

9. What happens to Judge Horton’s career as a consequence of choosing to maintain his personal integrity?

10. Why does the jury adamantly accept Victoria Price’s testimony even though a medical examination revealed no evidence of rape and produced only non-motile sperm?

11. Why do the jurists vehemently dismiss Ruby Bates’ testimony?

12. What does Ruby spend the rest of her life doing? Why?

13. Why does Governor Wallace, a staunch segregationist eventually parole all nine of the defendants?

14. Why do you suppose that Haywood Patterson, the only boy who was left in Kilby Prison and who eventually escaped to the north in 1948, was treated worse than the others?

15. What haunts Haywood for the remainder of his life?

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