cover image Stories of Scottsboro

Stories of Scottsboro

James Goodman. Pantheon Books, $27.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-40779-9

In this affecting, rich history of the notorious ``Scottsboro Boys'' case, Harvard historian Goodman traces the perspectives of numerous participants: the black men accused of the gang rape of two white women; the politicians, gentry, editors and activists who became embroiled in the case. Goodman writes clear, detail-rich prose with rhythmic power, ably integrating a wealth of sources to tell of the 1931 incident in northern Alabama, the battles between black leaders and Communists over the leadership of the defense and the several subsequent travesties in court. Only when the case began to damage the reputation of Alabama, by 1937, did prosecutors compromise, dropping charges against four of the accused, while the other defendants remained in prison until the last man was finally freed in 1950. If Goodman's shifting weave occasionally drops a thread, his grasp of his subject is strong, and the recurring voices of the unjustly accused nine--``I want to be a man, and I want a chance in life. Something I have never had,'' wrote one--echo in our collective conscience. Photos not seen by PW. (Mar.)