AUBURN – The Scottsboro trials of the 1930s will be the subject of a talk on Monday, March 29, at 4 p.m. in the University Chapel by two authors who have written on the subject. The speakers, who will provide insight on the conviction of the Scottsboro Boys and the trials that followed, will be James Miller, professor of English and American Studies and chair of American Studies Department at George Washington University, and Susan Pennybacker, a modern British and European specialist on the faculty of Trinity College in Connecticut.
The story of the Scottsboro Boys and subsequent trials began in 1931 in Alabama, when nine black youths were charged with raping two white women. Despite little and contradictory evidence, all nine were found guilty and eight of the defendants were sentenced to death. The trial and the fate of the young men became an international cause and influenced not only the legal system but also American culture at large.
Miller’s book, “Remembering Scottsboro: The Legacy of an Infamous Trial,” was published last year by Princeton University Press. The author focuses on the trajectory of the case and its aftermath in fiction, poetry, drama and film from the 1930s until recent times, as well as how this case become a lens for perceptions of race, class, sexual politics and justice.
Pennybacker’s most recent book, “From Scottsboro to Munich: Race and Political Culture in 1930s Britain,” was also published last year by Princeton University Press. The author examines the British Scottsboro defense campaign and follows a global network of individuals and organizations that challenged the racism and colonialism of the era. She looks at British, imperial and transatlantic political culture of the 1930s, including Jim Crow, imperial London, and the events leading to the Munich Crisis. She offers her perspective on the conflicts, politics and solidarities of the years leading to World War II.
Both Miller and Pennybacker were featured on a segment of the PBS program, “History Detectives,” to discuss a specific aspect of the case.
The program is jointly sponsored by the Department of History and the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts and Humanities, both in the Auburn University College of Liberal Arts, and the University of Alabama’s New College. Pennybacker and Miller will also present in Tuscaloosa, Scottsboro and Tuskegee. The Auburn program is free and open to the public. Copies of the books will be available for purchase and signing. For more information, visit www.auburn.edu/cah or call (334) 844-4946.
(Contributed by Maiben Beard.)