Pen Strokes of Justice: Judge Horton and the Scottsboro Boys

- Davis, Rebekah*
The world was captivated, that spring of 1933, by the re-trial in Alabama of one of nine black teens previously found guilty of raping two white women on a train. And so, from around the world, they wrote to the judge. Representing hundreds of thousands, they begged for justice, whatever they deemed justice to be. And when the trial was over, and Judge James E. Horton Jr. had lost his judicial career over his decision to overturn the jury’s guilty verdict, Horton took the more than 700 letters, telegrams, resolutions, and newspaper clippings he had received, and he carefully stowed them in a tin lard bucket.

The lid comes off the bucket for this presentation, in which the audience will not only learn more about this case and its continuing effect on civil rights and the justice system today, but also will have the opportunity to volunteer to give voice to a selection of these historic documents. This presentation offers the opportunity to reflect on the courage of the moment, to face demands from all sides and threats of death, and to say, as Horton did, “We have only to do our duty without fear or favor.”