• Scottsboro Boys Questions & TKAM

    1. Trials such as those of the Scottsboro Boys and Tom Robinson have sometimes been referred to as “courtroom lynchings.” What do you think that description means? According to Klarman, what is the relationship between the practice of lynching and these trials? What did many white Southerners believe would happen if black defendants accused of raping white women were found not guilty?
    2. What roles did race, gender, and class play in whom juries believed and whom they did not believe in Southern courtrooms in the 1930s?
    3. What similarities do you notice between the story of the Scottsboro Boys and the story of Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird? What differences do you notice?
    4. What is “due process of law”? How does the failure to provide a defendant with an adequate lawyer and time to prepare a defense violate that person’s right to due process?
    5. Looking back on Klarman’s description of the trial, what details suggest that the Scottsboro Boys’ lawyers were not sufficiently competent or prepared for the trial?
    6. Did Tom Robinson have adequate representation for his trial?
    7. What details does Klarman’s report, as summarized above, include that explain why many white Alabamians were angered when Leibowitz challenged Victoria Price on her version of what happened on the train? What unwritten rules of Alabama society in the 1930s did Leibowitz challenge?
    8. What effect do you think it might have had on the trial to have so many people around the world following it?
    9. How can you explain the fact that despite mounting evidence of their innocence, juries continued to convict the Scottsboro Boys in each new trial? If Jem had known about the Scottsboro Boys, do you think he would have been as optimistic about Tom Robinson’s chances?
    10. What does “equal protection of the law” mean? What does it suggest about the universe of obligation of the United States?
    11. Would the Supreme Court that ruled on the Scottsboro cases have agreed with Atticus’s argument in his closing speech that all people are equal in a courtroom? Use evidence to support your position.
    12. What is justice? Did anyone in the story of the Scottsboro Boys receive justice?
    13. Can the legal system force society to change? What does Michael Klarman suggest about the unintended consequences of just court rulings?
    14. Which characters in To Kill a Mockingbird would believe that justice was served in the repeated convictions of the Scottsboro Boys? Which characters would believe that justice had failed?
    15. Why did Alabama courts continue to convict the Scottsboro defendants, even though it became increasingly clear that they were innocent? Why do you think so many of the Scottsboro Boys eventually had their prison time reduced?