On March 25, 1931, seven young white men entered a railroad stationmaster's office in northern Alabama. They claimed that while they were riding the rails, a "bunch of Negroes" picked a fight with them and threw them off the train. The stationmaster phoned ahead to the next station, near Scottsboro, Alabama. A Scottsboro deputy sheriff made deputies of every man in town with a gun. When the train stopped, the posse (group of people legally authorized keep the peace) rounded up nine young black men and two young white women. The women, Ruby Bates and Victoria Price, were dressed in men's caps and overalls.
The deputy sheriff tied the black youths together and started questioning them. All of them were from other states. Five of them were from Georgia. Twenty-year-old Charlie Weems was the oldest. Clarence Norris was nineteen. Ozie Powell was sixteen. Olin Montgomery, seventeen, was blind in one eye and had only 10 percent of his vision in the other eye. Willie Roberson, seventeen, suffered from the sexually-transmitted diseases syphilis and gonorrhea, which made him walk with a cane. The other four boys were from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Haywood Patterson and Andy Wright were nineteen. Eugene Williams was thirteen. Wright's brother, Roy, was twelve. None of them could read.
As the deputy sheriff loaded his prisoners onto an open truck, one of the women, Ruby Bates, spoke up. She told the deputy sheriff that she and her friend had been raped by the nine black youths. In Scottsboro, the sheriff sent the women off to be examined by two doctors. Meanwhile, news of the rape had spread throughout the county. By nightfall, a mob of several hundred people stood before the Scottsboro jail, promising to lynch (hang) the prisoners. The sheriff, barricaded inside with twenty-one deputies, called the governor. The governor sent out twenty-five National Guardsmen, but by the time they arrived at the jail, the crowd had given up and drifted away....