March 25th 1931

Nine black teenage boys are 'hoboing' on the Southern Railway line between Chattanooga and Memphis. A fight breaks out on the train between the teenagers and a group of white men and women resulting in the whites being thrown off the train. The train is searched in Paint Rock, Alabama, under instructions to 'capture every Negro on the train'. The boys are arrested on charges of assault. After accusations from two of the white women involved in the fight, Ruby Bates and Victoria Price, the charges are changed to rape.

April 6th 1931

The nine boys are accompanied by 118 armed Alabama guardsmen to a court surrounded by 8-10,000 baying citizens. The trials are conducted in front of an all-white audience and it takes just three days for the jury to reach a conclusion. The boys are represented by Milo Moody and Stephen Roddy. Moody had not represented anyone in decades and Roddy, a real estate lawyer unfamiliar with Alabama law, was also representing Bates and Price.

April 7th 1931

Clarence Norris, 19, and Charlie Weems, 20, are declared guilty with the verdict calling for the death penalty. The two girls and Orvill Gilley, one of the white boys, are called as witnesses, with Victoria Price cracking jokes in the witness stand. Other witnesses included Luther Morris, a farmer who said that he “had seen a plenty” on the freight train as it passed his hay loft, which was located 30 miles away, and doctors Lynch and Bridges, who both testified that there was no evidence of rape from their medical examinations of the girls. When the verdict was reached, the courtroom and thousands outside exploded into applause.

April 8th 1931

Haywood Patterson, 18, was tried alone. The jury delivered a guilty verdict within three hours and sentenced Patterson to death. The courtroom responded with silence.

April 9th 1931

Olen Montgomery, 17; Andy Wright, 18; Eugene Williams, 13; Willie Roberson, 17 and Ozie Powell, 16 are all sentenced to death. During this third trial, it was revealed that Willie Roberson was "diseased with syphilis and gonorrhea, a bad case of it", making it practically impossible for him to have raped either girl.

April 9th 1931

Roy Wright, 12 at the time of his arrest, was the only boy not sentenced to death. His trial ended in a mistrial: eleven jurors believed that he should face the death penalty with the twelfth holding out for life imprisonment.

April 1931

After demonstrations in Harlem, the boys' plight grabs the attentions of the American Communist Party. Their legal arm, the International Labor Defence, persuades the victims' parents to let them champion their cause. Attorneys Joseph Brodsky and George W. Chamlee are assigned to the case.

July 7th 1931

The Alabama Supreme Court issues indefinite stays of executions three days before the boys were due to be executed. The boys are in a cell next to the execution chamber, where they later recall hearing fellow black prisoner Willie Hoakes “die hard”.

January 5th 1932

Ruby Bates admits in a letter that she was not raped, saying “is a goddam lie about those Negroes jassing me those police man made me tell a lie that is my statement” (sic.)

March 24th 1932

The Alabama Supreme Court upholds seven of the eight convictions. Eugene Williams was granted a new trial and was spared the immediate threat of the electric chair because he was a juvenile.

July 4th 1932

Ada Wright is welcomed to Glasgow as part of her international tour to gain support for her sons Andy and Roy Wright during the Scottsboro Boys trials.

November 1932

In a landmark case, the US Supreme Court reverses the convictions of the Scottsboro Boys on the grounds that the Alabama court had failed to provide the boys with adequate assistance of counsel. This was required by the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

January 1933

Samuel Leibowitz is retained by the ILD to defend the Scottsboro Boys.

April 9th 1933

Haywood Patterson is found guilty by jury for the second time despite Leibowitz dismantling all of the prosecution's arguments. Dr. Lynch, who did not appear at the trial for fear of losing his practice, confided to Judge Horton that the women had not been raped and that they had laughed when he examined them.

April 18th 1933

The trials of the other Scottsboro Boys are postponed due to dangerously high local tensions.

May 7th 1933

Thousands march in Washington to protest the Alabama trials.

June 22nd 1933

Judge Horton sets aside Haywood Patterson's second conviction and grants a new trial. The case is later transferred to Judge William Callahan's court.

December 1933

Haywood Patterson and Clarence Norris are tried once more for rape, are both convicted and are both sentenced to death.

April 1st 1935

In another landmark ruling, the US Supreme Court overturns Haywood Patterson and Clarence Norris' convictions because African Americans were excluded from sitting in the juries in their trials.

January 23rd 1936

Haywood Patterson is convicted for a fourth time and is sentenced to 75 years in prison - the first time in Alabama that a black man convicted of raping a white woman had avoided the death sentence.

January 24th 1936

Ozie Powell attacks two police officers with a pocket knife after being threatened while being transported to Birmingham Prison. In response, one of the officers shot Powell in the head, leaving him permanently brain damaged.

July 15th 1937

Clarence Norris is convicted of rape and sexual assault and is sentenced to death. A year later his sentence is reduced to life in prison.

July 24th 1937

Charlie Weems is convicted of rape and is sentenced to 105 years in prison.

July 24th 1937

As part of a plea bargain, the rape charges against Ozie Powell are dropped in exchange for him pleading guilty to assaulting the deputy. He is sentenced to 20 years.

July 24th 1937

All charges are dropped against Willie Roberson, Olen Montgomery, Eugene Williams and Roy Wright after they spent four years in prison.

Late 1937

Ruby Bates tours with the ILD to express how she was "sorry for all the trouble that [she] caused them".

September 1943

Charlie Weems is paroled.

January 1944

Norris and Wright are paroled. Both later violate their paroles and are made to return to prison.

July 1948

Haywood Patterson escapes from prison.


Haywood Patterson publishes his book, 'The Scottsboro Boy'.

June 1950

The FBI finds and arrests Haywood Patterson. Michigan's governor refuses to extradite him.

December 1950

Haywood Patterson is charged with murder after his involvement in a barroom fight resulted in the death of another man. His charge is later reduced to manslaughter.


Haywood Patterson dies in prison.

October 1976

After jumping parole in 1948, Clarence Norris (now married with two children) is found. Governor George Wallace pardons Norris.


Clarence Norris' book 'The Last of the Scottsboro Boys' is published.

January 23rd 1989

Clarence Norris, the last of the Scottsboro Boys, dies, aged 76.


Theatre director Susan Stroman meets with writer David Thompson, composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb to “research the famous American trials”. Upon finding the Scottsboro Boys trial, they decide that it was "a story that needed to be told".

January 2004

Scottsboro acknowledges the injustice by dedicating a historical marker to the Scottsboro Boys outside the Jackson County Courthouse.

September 11th 2004

Lyricist Fred Ebb passes away, and The Scottsboro Boys musical is put on hold.


John Kander approaches Susan Stroman and David Thompson to continue with The Scottsboro Boys musical, finishing writing the lyrics in Ebb's place.

February 2010

The Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Centre officially opens in Alabama after years of work to bring honor to their case.

March 10th 2010

The Scottsboro Boys opens off-Broadway in New York at the Vineyard Theatre. The New York Post describes the show as a “masterwork, both daring and highly entertaining”.

October 7th 2010

After showing in Minneapolis between July 31st and August 6th, The Scottsboro Boys opens on Broadway, directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman. The production was nominated for 12 Tony Awards.

March 25th 2011

80th anniversary of the Scottsboro Boys' arrest. Chief Scottsboro Boys Historian Dan T. Carter, United States District Judge Victoria A. Roberts and Catherine Schreiber, producer of The Scottsboro Boys musical, receive keys to the city of Scottsboro from Councilman Matthew Hodges in recognition of their work in keeping the memory of the Scottsboro Boys alive. Scottsboro Boys Museum Founder Shelia Washington is also pictured.

February 4th 2013

Shelia Washington, Founder of the Scottsboro Boys Museum, announces the introduction of The Scottsboro Boys Act to exonerate the eight Scottsboro Boys who had never been officially pardoned.

February 22nd 2013

It's official! The Young Vic announces that the Young Vic/Catherine Schreiber Production of The Scottsboro Boys will receive its UK premiere in October 2013, once again under the direction of Susan Stroman.

April 4th 2013

82 years after they were wrongly accused, the Alabama Legislature has unanimously voted to pardon the Scottsboro Boys. The bill must still be signed by Governor Robert Bentley to become law.

April 19th 2013

82 years after they were wrongly accused, the Governor of Alabama signs a formal resolution which exonerates the Scottsboro Boys. Co-producer Catherine Schreiber spoke at the historic event, which took place at the Scottsboro Museum and Cultural Center. Also pictured are Clarence Norris Jr, son of Scottsboro Boy Clarence Norris, Senator Arthur Orr and Governor Robert Bentley. Read the Governor's statement here.

October 18th 2013

The Scottsboro Boys opens in London at The Young Vic to critical acclaim and rave reviews. The season is extended to 21st December and sells out.

November 21st 2013

A message from John Kander, Susan Stroman and David Thompson:
“After 82 years, the Alabama Parole Board has finally granted posthumous pardons for the Scottsboro Boys. Charles Weems, Andy Wright, Haywood Patterson join Clarence Norris, Willie Roberson, Eugene Williams, Roy Wright, Ozie Powell and Olen Montgomery as free men. In the years since their arrests, these nine boys have changed lives, sparked movements and altered the course of history. They have proved that justice need not be denied, that the truth will set you free – and most of all, that they matter. And now, after all these years, they are free to hop a freight and go back home.”
"This decision will give them a final peace in their graves, wherever they are”
Sheila Washington, director of the Scottsboro Museum and Cultural Center in Scottsboro.

February 28th 2014

The Scottsboro Boys wins the highly coveted Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Musical.