Scottsboro Boys

Crowd Outside Scottsboro Court House, April 6, 1931

Crowd Outside Scottsboro Court House, April 6, 1931

In 1931, Rosa McCauley met and fell in love with a politically-active barber, Raymond Parks — the “first real activist I ever met.” When they began seeing each other, Raymond was working to free the Scottsboro boys, nine young men picked up for riding the rails, wrongly accused of rape, and sentenced to death in 1931 Alabama. Rosa and Raymond married in December 1932 “right in the middle of the campaign to save the Scottsboro Boys. ” And so she began her political activism and newlywed life working alongside Raymond to free and defend the nine young men. They both attended meetings. This was dangerous work. The committee would meet at odd hours — at daybreak and the middle of the night. “Not many men were activists in those days either, because if it was known that they were meeting, they would be wiped right out. But it didn’t bother me being married to Parks. He was doing the same thing before we got married; and I knew how dangerous it was.”

This organizing was clandestine; “I would stand in front of a certain street light,” explained Raymond, “and lean over and tie my shoe a certain way to give a signal as to where we would meet and the day and the time.” Raymond told Rosa that for security reasons, everyone in the group was simply known to each other as Larry.

Raymond brought food to the Scottsboro boys in jail and told Rosa that he would “never sleep well until they’re free.” As the Scottsboro organizing increased, the police looked for people to intimidate. Two of Raymond’s associates were killed.  One day, two cops on motorcycles drove back and forth in front of the Parks home. Rosa and a friend were frightened. Raymond made it safely back home, coming in through the back door.  She was enormously relieved: “At least they didn’t get him that time.”

Map: A Fateful Journey, PBS.

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