The Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center commemorates the lives and legacy of nine young African Americans who, in the 1930s, became international symbols of race-based injustice in the American South, and celebrates the positive actions of those of all colors, creeds and origins who have taken a stand against the tyranny of racial oppression. We are committed to advancing reconciliation and healing, and promoting civil rights and an appreciation of cultural diversity worldwide.
The Scottsboro Multicultural Foundation established the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center in 2010. The Museum’s opening was the culmination of a 17-year effort led by Scottsboro native Shelia Washington, chairperson of the Museum and executive committee member of the Foundation, to bring honor and dignity to the lives and cases of nine black teenagers accused of raping two white women while traveling through Jackson County on a train in 1931.
Watch video of Shelia Washington describing the events that led to the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center’s founding.
The museum’s location and the structure that houses it could not be more fitting. The site is situated a short distance from the rail line on which the Scottsboro Boys’ train travelled, along the road authorities took bringing the youths to jail and a few blocks from the courthouse where they first stood trial. Former slaves constructed a church — originally the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church of Scottsboro — on the site in 1878. It’s the oldest standing African American church in Jackson County.
The fate of the initial structure is unknown, but the church was rebuilt in 1904. Steps to the first church remain in the embankment between the Museum and West Willow Street. A major renovation, including construction of the building’s west wing, occurred in 1948. The church was remodeled again in 1984. Brick veneer was added to the structure’s wooden exterior and walls were plastered during that project.
African Americans worshipped at Joyce Chapel United Methodist Church until 2009, when the congregation dwindled and the United Methodist Association decided to put the building on the market. Washington says she knew the instant she stepped through the doors in December 2009 the church was the “perfect” spot for a museum commemorating the Scottsboro Boys and their historic cases. “It just felt right,” she recalls. The Scottsboro Multicultural Foundation acquired the two-acre property and church in April 2010 with the help of donations from the Jackson County Legislative Delegation and an anonymous gift made through the Calvert Foundation. Because the United Methodist Association allowed the Foundation to use the facility before the purchase was finalized, the museum opened in February 2010.
Clearing of underbrush behind the church in spring 2010 revealed a wealth of pottery, china and glass bottles buried just below the surface. The items include Asian porcelain dating to the 18th century. African Americans lived in shotgun houses that once occupied land behind the church. An archeological dig and research will be conducted to learn more about the origins of these artifacts, several of which are displayed in the museum.
The Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center is working with a consortium of higher-education institutions including The University of Alabama, Alabama A&M University, Auburn University and Tuskegee University as well as prominent Scottsboro scholars from across the country to further develop educational programming, multi-media exhibits and promotional materials. Led by the University of Alabama’s New College and Center for Ethics & Social Responsibility, college students developed this website and a brochure about the Museum. Internships by graduate and undergraduate students from Alabama universities also support the museum’s research and educational goals.
Through the Scottsboro Boys Museum University-Community Partnership, University of Alabama students have created a travel guide with information about key sites related to the Scottsboro Boys Trials, assisted with fundraising, writing grant proposals and conducting research that led to an exhibit of rarely seen photos from one of the trials and an online exhibit of letters about the Scottsboro Boys case that were sent to Alabama governors during the 1930s. The efforts of UA students, faculty and the museum culminated in 2013 with legislation that exonerated all nine of the Scottsboro Boys and paved the way for pardons of the three whose convictions still stood. Read more here.
The partnership among the museum’s local board of directors, scholars and student interns allows the museum to sensitively explore and preserve the past in an area where memories of a controversial racial history were resisted for many years. Local schools often skimmed over the topic, barely mentioning the Scottsboro Boys and their historic cases. Today, a different attitude exists. In addition to the university consortium, the Jackson County Legislative Delegation, Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and Scottsboro Multicultural Foundation support the museum and its mission.
Founder and chairperson
Shelia Washington was the first African American to work at Scottsboro City Hall. For nearly two decades (1978-1996), she served as public relations manager and office manager for the mayor. In addition to founding the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center, she established and continues to work with the Scottsboro Multicultural Foundation and the Beyond the Break crime and drug prevention ministry. She also managed the Ben Samford Outreach Center, which organizes activities and develops educational programming for youth after school and on weekends. She served on the Department of Human Resources advisory board for child welfare in Jackson County and has earned several keys to the city of Scottsboro for being a mentor and leader in the community.
William F. Bomar
Director, Moundville Archaeological Park, and Adjunct Professor of Museum Studies, University of Alabama
William F. Bomar has been Director of the University of Alabama’s Moundville Archaeological Park for more than a decade, and supervised the $3 million renovation of the Museum at Moundville, which opened in May, 2010. For more than two decades, he has worked in museums and historic sites including the Atlanta History Center, the Coastal Heritage Society in Savannah, Ga., and the Nebraska State Historical Society in Lincoln. He has served on the board of the Southeastern Museums Conference and as president of the Alabama Museums Association. Bomar earned a Master of Education degree at Georgia Southern University and a Master of Arts degree in museum studies at the University of Nebraska.
Derrick M. Bryan
Assistant Professor, Department of Gender and Race Studies, University of Alabama
Derrick M. Bryan’s research focuses on the social, emotional, cultural and psychological consequences of racial oppression and social inequality for African American males and other people of color in various societal domains. He earned his Ph.D. from The Ohio State University.
Dan T. Carter
Educational Foundation Professor of History Emeritus, University of South Carolina
The author and editor of six books and more than 40 articles, Carter’s first major work was Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South (Louisiana State University Press, 1970, 2007.) The book received four major literary and scholarly prizes, including the Bancroft Prize awarded to the year’s outstanding book in American history. Carter’s 1995 study of the role of George Wallace in American politics received the Robert F. Kennedy Literary Prize and was the basis for the 2000 PBS documentary George Wallace: “Settin’ the Woods on Fire.” Carter received an Emmy from the American Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his research on the Wallace film. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina.
Associate Professor of History, Auburn University
David Carter has taught at Auburn University since 2000. His research interests are in the history of the civil rights movement, the history of the American South since the Civil War and U.S. history since 1945. He is particularly drawn to the role of race and ideology in shaping American history. Carter is author of The Music Has Gone Out of the Movement: Civil Rights and the Johnson Administration, 1965-1968 (University of North Carolina Press, 2009), a study of the shifting relationships between the presidency of Lyndon Johnson and grassroots advocates of racial and economic equality. He is working on a book about a turn-of-the-century lynching in South Carolina. Carter earned his Ph. D. from Duke University.
Dana R. Chandler
Archivist, Tuskegee University
Dana R. Chandler’s talk, “Pre-Columbian Visits to the Americas: Evidence of Africans and Others,” was delivered as part of the University National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health conference in spring 2010. He also co-hosted the Scottsboro Trials Remembered tour in March 2010.
James C. Hall
Director, New College, University of Alabama
James C. Hall leads the University of Alabama’s innovative, interdisciplinary New College program. His Mercy, Mercy Me: African-American Culture and the American Sixties (Oxford, 2001) is an interdisciplinary consideration of the “dialectic of the Enlightenment” in American culture. Hall earned his Ph.D. at the University of Iowa.
Director, Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities, Auburn University
As director of the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center, an outreach office of Auburn University’s College of Liberal Arts, Jay Lamar oversees an institution that has developed and implemented public humanities programs for the citizens of Alabama since 1985. She earned the 2009 Virginia van der Veer Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Alabama Historical Association. Lamar co-edited The Remembered Gate: Memoirs by Alabama Writers (UAP 2002), and her most recent work is a contribution to Albert Murray and the Aesthetic Imagination of a Nation (UAP).
James A. Miller
Chair, Department of American Studies, George Washington University
James A. Miller authored Remembering Scottsboro: The Legacy of an Infamous Trial (Princeton, 2009), which focuses on the aftermath of the notorious case in fiction, poetry, drama and film. He teaches English and American Studies at George Washington University, and earned his Ph.D. from State University of New York at Buffalo.
Posten Chair in British History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Susan Pennybacker is part of a collaborative team of scholars who are researching the international Scottsboro campaign. She is author of From Scottsboro to Munich: Race and Political Culture in 1930s Britain (Princeton, 2009), which narrates the 1932 European travel of Ada Wright, mother of Scottsboro boys Roy and Andy Wright, and surveys the global defense campaign. Pennybacker taught in the history department at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, for three decades, most recently as the Painter Professor of European history. She assumed the Posten Chair in British history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in July, 2010. She earned her Ph.D. at Cambridge University.
Ellen Griffith Spears
Assistant Professor, New College and Department of American Studies, University of Alabama
Affiliated Faculty, Department of Gender and Race Studies, University of Alabama
Ellen Griffith Spears teaches Southern civil rights and environmental history at the University of Alabama and is author of the oral history documentary project, “The Newtown Story: One Community’s Fight for Environmental Justice,” which recounts the civil rights and environmental activism of the Newtown Florist Club, a group of African American women in Gainesville, Georgia. She is the former associate director of the Southern Regional Council. She also has taught at Agnes Scott College and Emory University in Atlanta, where she earned her Ph.D.
Phone: (256) 912-0471
The Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center
P.O. Box 1557
Scottsboro, AL 35768