Scottsboro is a novel based on true events. It tells the story of 9 black men in the southern town of Scottsboro, Alabama who are dragged from a train, accused of raping two white girls and sentenced to death in 1931. We are led through the book in the first person, mostly from the point of view of a young journalist, Alice Whittier (Alice in a fictional character used to give the story a common narrative.)
The elements of the story are the alleged rape of Victoria Price and Ruby Bates; the subsequent trials of the 9 boys; and the international outcry about the injustice of the case. The story is a pretty famous one, but for those who aren't aware of what happens, I have deliberately kept my synopsis short to avoid ruining the story!
The book deals with the inherent and institutionalised racism, sexism and anti-Semitism that existed in the 1930's and continued in the majority through to the 70's. It can be a tough read at times in terms of the awful assumptions were made of black people around that and how instilled in the public the idea of white supremacy was.
I found Alice, the reporter, a bit of a difficult character to connect to sometimes; she was often indifferent to any of the social situations we saw her in and her relationship with Ruby Bates was difficult to understand despite the sub plot of an estranged sister. Also, her relationships with her boss and a playwright were left with little detail and I can't help thinking they were put into to fill the formula of having a love interest.
I was pleased to discover that most of the courtroom scenes had been taken verbatim from transcripts of the real event - its easy to believe that they may have been sensationalised by Ellen Fieldman for dramatic purpose, but to find its pretty much the real account makes it all that much more disturbing.
Like I say, not particularly light-hearted (!) but well worth a read about one of the greatest trials of all time.
Published by WW Norton (April 2008)