Paul Clemens: High School Teachers Institute
Friday, February 04, 2022, 09:30am - 02:00pm
February 4, 2022
“The Scottsboro Trials of the 1930s and the Trial of the Men Accused of Emmett Till’s Murder in the mid-1950s.”
Paul Clemens, Professor of History, Rutgers University
Our seminar will deal with two famous court cases that helped alert the nation to how local law reinforced racial injustice before the era of student sit-ins and voting rights struggles in the 1960s. The Scottsboro trials in Alabama during the 1930s Great Depression of nine African American accused of raping two white women was an attempt at a legal lynching. While the Supreme Court would twice step in and provide a new definition of what the 14th Amendment protection of a fair trial meant in America, the lives of the defendants were brutally affected. We will then look at the story of Emmett Till’s murder in 1955, shortly before the Montgomery, Alabama Bus Boycott. The Mississippi murder led to a “not guilty” verdict by an all-white jury In Mississippi of those accused of the murder. The murder and the acquittals inspired a national protest, led by Till’s mother, that was a foundational moment in strengthening the resolve of civil rights workers for racial justice. We will also consider how recent scholarship has deepened our understanding of both trials and the people involved. If you would like to read about the trials before the seminar, see https://famous-trials.com/ (a marvelous teaching resources, if you do not know it already).