MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama’s governor signed legislation Thursday that will permit posthumous pardons for a group of black youths wrongfully convicted of raping two white women more than 80 years ago.
Gov. Robert Bentley’s staff delivered the signed bill concerning the Scottsboro Boys on Thursday afternoon, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office said
“This is historic legislation, and it’s time to right this wrong,” Bentley said in a statement.
The nine black youths, ranging from 13 to 19, were wrongfully convicted by all-white juries of raping two white women on a train in north Alabama more than 80 years ago. All but the youngest were sentenced to death, even though one of the women recanted her story. All eventually got out of prison. One received a pardon before he died, but the others didn’t.
Over time, the case became a symbol of the tragedies wrought by racial injustice. It inspired popular songs, books and films. A Broadway musical was staged in 2010, the same year a museum dedicated to the case opened in Scottsboro.
Museum organizer Sheila Washington persuaded Republican state Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur to pursue the legislation allowing the state parole board to issue posthumous pardons. It passed with bipartisan support April 4.
Bentley said Thursday he plans a ceremonial bill signing April 19 in Scottsboro. “I want to visit Scottsboro in person and stand together with the men and women who have worked so hard to clear the names of the Scottsboro Boys,” the Republican governor said.
Bentley had to officially sign the bill Thursday rather than wait until April 19 because he was up against a constitutional time limit for a governor to act on a bill passed by the Legislature.