Newspaper Articles



  1. What is the date of the paper?
  2. From looking at the headline, how many go free and how many do not?
  3. How could this happen with the same evidence for each case?
  4. What can be inference that even in the New York Times, the boys are referenced to as “Negroes”?
  5. What does the position and size of the article indicate about the importance of the case in American society?


November 20, 1933


Warning of ‘Massacre’ of Seven Prisoners and Their Lawyers at Decatur (Ala.) Court Today, Defense Counsel Wire President a Plea to Obtain State Troops.

By F. Raymond Daniell
Special to The New York Times

DECATUR, Ala., Nov. 19.

President Roosevelt was urged today to intervene and avert the danger of mob violence tomorrow when seven of the nine Negro defendants in the Scottsboro case are to be arraigned here in the Morgan County Court House.

Attorneys for the accused men, who have been in prison for nearly three years, telegraphed the President at Warm Springs, Ga., urging Governor Miller of Alabama to insure military protection for themselves and their clients.

In the message sent from Birmingham and signed by Samuel S, Leibowitz, chief counsel; G.W. Chamlee and Joseph Brodsky, his associates, Mr. Roosevelt was informed that “the probability of a massacre of the defendants and their attorneys is extremely grave.”

The tentative decision of Circuit Judge W.W. Callahan, who is to preside at the third trial of Heywood Patterson, opening a week from tomorrow, to dispense with the militia, occasioned the dispatch of the telegram after a direct appeal to Governor Miller, who is ill, failed to bring the desired result.

The telegram to the President, as made public by Mr. Leibowitz in Birmingham, where he is staying pending the opening of court tomorrow, was as follows:

“We earnestly ask your good offices to persuade Governor Miller of Alabama to order out sufficient National Guardsmen to provide adequate protection for the nine Scottsboro boys and their attorneys who are to appear at Decatur tomorrow for arraignment of the defendants and for trial Nov. 27.

“At the previous trial this Spring, Circuit Judge Horton, presiding, took judicial notice of incipient mob action to lynch defendants and attorneys by ordering soldiers in open court to shoot if necessary to preserve the peace.  Shortly after the trial, Judge Horton, who has since been supplanted, adjourned court on his own motion because of the temper of citizens.

Since the last trial two Negroes in the custody of Sheriff were recently  lynched in Tuscaloosa cases; a Negro named Royal was lynched in the very city of Decatur in August and a mob visited the Decatur jail to lynch a Negro prisoner named Brown.  Only removal to Huntsville jail before mob arrived prevented his assassination.

“Situation now infinitely more tense.  Have affidavits naming many persons in Decatur and neighboring towns who have openly voiced intention of ‘getting the niggers and their attorneys.’

“Editorials today in Birmingham Age Herald and Post show their appreciation of imminence of danger and urge official to call out militia.  Despite this situation, the Governor has rejected a plea for State troops to guard prisoners and attorneys.  The probability of massacre of defendants and attorneys is extremely grave.  We urge your intervention.”

Despite the concern of the defense attorneys, there were no indications here today that Judge Callahan contemplated the summoning of troops, and officials and townsfolk insisted that there was no need for his doing so.

Attorney General Thomas E. Knight Jr., who is to prosecute the Negroes on charges of attacking two white girls in a freight car in March, 1931, indicated that he regarded the presence of militiamen at the last trial as a needless expense.

Sheriff Bud Davis left here with one deputy this afternoon with an order on the Sheriff of Jefferson County for a transfer of the prisoners on the ninety-six mile automobile trip from Birmingham to Decatur.  The time of their arrival is being kept secret, but the arraignment is set for 9 A.M.

Mr. Chamlee, the only Southern lawyer associated with the defense, which is financed by the International Labor Defense, visited the prisoners in the jail this afternoon and said he found them in a state of panic.

Fearing they would be lynched en route to Decatur, they said at first that they would resist any attempt to remove them from the Birmingham jail and it took a great deal of persuasion by Mr. Chamlee to induce them to sign the motion papers for a change of venue.  Finally they agreed . . .


  1. How long were the boys imprisoned before seeing the courtroom?
  2. Do you think this violates their constitutional rights?
  3. What threat does the city of Decatur and its people pose to the defendants and their lawyers?
  4. How did the attorneys urge the President to intervene?
  5. What purpose did it serve for Attorney Leibowitz to make this telegram public?
  6. What does the description of mob violence in the telegram show about white sentiment towards African Americans during the trial? Why would some white citizens go to these extreme measures?


  1. What is the author invoking by using the quote “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”?
  2. Who is sending death threats to the judge?
  3. Would death threats possibly sway the judge’s opinion?
  4. Why does the author label the boys as “guilty” even though the trial has not started yet?
  5. How could the author of this article be so sure of the guilt of “the negroes” when he has not heard testimony in the case?
  6. Should rape carry the death penalty like murder does?
  7. Did the defendants receive fair trials? Why or why not?



  1. How are the Scottsboro Boys referenced in the headline?
  2. Who published this article and what bias might they have?
  3. What kind of vocabulary is used to describe the boys in the article when compared with vocabulary used in reference to the court system?
  4. What does the author mean by saying “this newspaper joins with the public and the duly constituted authorities in seeing that the law is carried out to the letter”?
  5. Why isn’t the notion of “innocent until proven guilty” being used in the article?
  6. How does this article represent Southern white sentiment towards black citizens at the time?
  7. How would this sentiment affect the trial?