Scottsboro Nine Travesty

Scottsboro Nine Travesty

The phrase “Scottsboro Boys” evokes both our history of demeaning racial stereotyping as well as another horribly unfair example of American justice denied to African-Americans.

Some might say that the wheel of Fortune simply frowned upon these  nine young men one day in 1931,  just as it was doing to Americans of “another” color. They were just young men in the wrong place at the wrong time, but the odds of miscarried justice for blacks have always been higher.

Their story is a long one that became a cause célèbre for the American Communist party, progressives, the NAACP and a chance for newspapers to increase circulation.

Scottsboro Nine Travesty

March 25, 1931

Scottsboro Boys Travesty

On  March 25, 1931 the nine black youths were “hoboing” on a Southern Railroad freight train. Several white males and two white women were also on the train. A fight began between the white and black groups and the whites were kicked off the train. The whites complained to authorities. A posse stopped the train in Paint Rock, Alabama.  They arrested the group on charges of assault.  The authorities added rape charges against all nine after Victoria Price and Ruby Bates, the two girls on the train, made accusations.

Victoria Price (left) and Ruby Bates (right) in 1931

The youths arrested were Olen Montgomery (age 17), Clarence Norris (age 19), Haywood Patterson (age 18), Ozie Powell (age 16), Willie Roberson (age 16), Charlie Weems (age 16), Eugene Williams (age 13), and brothers Andy (age 19) and Roy Wright (age 12).

The posse brought the nine to Scottsboro, Alabama. On March 26, a crowd gathered around the Scottsboro jail to lynch the nine youths. Sheriff Matt Wann telephoned Governor Benjamin M. Miller who then called in the National Guard to protect the jail before taking the defendants to Gadsden, Alabama for indictment and to await trial.

On March 30, 1931 a grand jury indicted all nine for rape. Although rape was potentially a capital offense, the defendants were not allowed to consult an attorney because they were being kept  “for their safety” in death row cells and that area of the prison did not permit lawyers to speak unattended.

Scottsboro Nine Travesty

Swift Injustice

Scottsboro Nine Travesty
The crowd at Scottsboro on April 6, 1931

Over April 6 – 7, 1931 before Judge A. E. Hawkins, Clarence Norris and Charlie Weems were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. A threatening crowd gathered outside the courthouse. Victoria Price testified that six of the black youths raped her, and six raped Ruby Bates. Ruby Bates was not present.

The only legal help the defendants’ parents could afford was a real estate lawyer with no criminal defense experience. He had met with all nine for less than 30 minutes before the trials.

Scottsboro Nine Travesty
Haywood Paterson

Over April 7 – 8, 1931 Haywood Patterson was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death.

Over April 8 – 9, 1931 Olen Montgomery, Ozie Powell, Willie Roberson, Eugene Williams, and Andy Wright were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death.

Scottsboro Boys Travesty
Roy Wright

On April 9, 1931  the case against Roy Wright, aged 13, ended in a hung jury when 11 jurors seek a death sentence, and one voted for life imprisonment.

That same day, Judge Hawkins sentenced the eight convicted defendants to death by electric chair. He set the executions for July 10, 1931, the earliest date Alabama law allowed.

Scottsboro Nine Travesty

Stayed executions

page from Lynching Negro Children in Southern Courts, by Joseph North, International Labor Defense, 1931

June 22, 1931 Alabama Supreme Court stayed executions pending appeal.

The New York Times had reported the arrest and protection sought by Sheriff Matt Wann. The American Communist party was always on the look out for such discrimination. With that exposure, the NAACP and the Communist Party’s legal arm, the International Labor Defense, offered help. The young men’s parents selected the ILD.  George W. Chamlee was the ILD lawyer.

Scottsboro Boys Travesty


Case unravels but bias does not
Scottsboro Boys Travesty
Ruby Bates

January 5, 1932,: Ruby Bates, one of the two girls who accused the the nine of rape, denied that she was raped. In a letter Bates wrote her then boyfriend, Earl Streetman, she wrote: “those Negroes did not touch me….i hope you will believe me the law dont….i wish those Negroes are not Burnt on account of me.

March 24, 1932 the Alabama Supreme Court, by a vote of 6-1, affirmed seven the convictions.  It reversed the conviction of Eugene Williams on the grounds that he was a juvenile under state law in 1931.

Scottsboro Boys Travesty

May 3, 1932 Harry Hambrick killed Sheriff Matt Wann when Wann attempted to serve a warrant for his arrest for the failure to support his wife.

Wann had mistakenly arrested Hambrick’s brother and Harry Hambrick shot and killed Wann. Hambrick was never caught nor tried in abstencia. Several deputies were with Wann assisting with the arrest.

On May 27, 1932 the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear the Scottsboro cases.

Not quite Free Speech

October 2, 1932,  American Legion members helped Los Angeles police break up a rally of 1,000 people at the Long Beach Free Speech Zone, who were supporting the nine defendants. Police arrested two people, which was one of 11 political meetings reportedly broken up by LA police in 1932, often with assistance of the American Legion.

Powell v. Alabama

On November 7, 1932 in Powell v. Alabama, the Supreme Court reversed the convictions by a vote of 7 – 2. The Court ruled that Alabama had denied the right to counsel to the defendants, which violated their right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court remanded the cases to the lower court.

Scottsboro Nine Travesty


Scottsboro Nine Travesty

January, 1933 the International Labor Defense retained Samuel S. Leibowitz, a New York lawyer, to defend the nine.

March 10, 1933: Roy Wright told New York Times reporter Raymond Daniell, “They whipped me and it seemed like they was going to kill me. All the time they kept saying, “now will you tell?” and finally it seemed like I couldn’t stand no more and I said yes. Then I went back into the courtroom and they put me up on the chair in front of the judge and began asking a lot of questions, and I said I had seen Charlie Weems and Clarence Norris with the white girls.”

Scottsboro Nine Travesty

New trials

March 27, 1933 Haywood Patterson’s second trial began before another all-white jury. Ruby Bates testified that no one had raped either Victoria Price or her on the Southern Railway.

“…Jew money”

April 7, 1933, summing up for the State at the close of the first of the new-Scottsboro trials, Wade Wright, circuit solicitor of Morgan County, Alabama, made a frank appeal to local pride, sectionalism, race hatred, and bigotry.

“Show them,” he said pointing at the counsel table at which were seated Sameul S Leibowitz of NY, chief defense counsel and Joseph Brodsky, counsel for the International Labor Defense, a Communist affiliate, — “show them that Alabama justice cannot be bought and sold with Jew money from New York”

April 9, 1933 a jury found Haywood Patterson guilty and sentenced him to death in the electric chair.

April 14, 1933, approximately 10,000 people attended a International Labor Defense meeting in NYC’s Union Square. The ILD asked for unity among white and blacks and to fight for the release of the nine defendants.

April 19, 1933,Judge Horton postponed the trials of the other Scottsboro defendants because of dangerously high local tensions. The judge feared that local tensions were too strained to result in a “just and impartial verdict.”

May 5, 1933 Ruby Bates, and appeared as a defense witness.  She also declared at a public appearance that the “the Scottsboro boys are innocent.”

May 8, 1933: in one of many protests across the country, thousands march in Washington D.C. to protest the Alabama trials.

Scottsboro Nine Travesty

 New Judge

October 20, 1933, Alabama Judge William Callahan took over the remaining cases from Judge Horton’s jurisdiction.

From PBS: “After Judge James Horton was asked to step down from the Patterson case, all the Scottsboro cases were transferred to Judge Callahan’s court. Unlike Horton, Callahan forbade cameras in his courtroom (“There ain’t going to be no more picture snappin’ round here,” he declared) and made clear that the press was much less welcome. Callahan tried to keep the case as straightforward as possible, limiting many of defense attorney Samuel Leibowitz’s objections and sustaining most of the prosecution’s objections of Leibowitz — and even chiming in with a few objections of his own.” PBS site

Scottsboro Boys Travesty
Clarence Norris

November 20, 1933: the seven oldest of the nine were tried in front of the new judge and jury. Haywood Patterson and Clarence Norris were sentenced to death.

Scottsboro Nine Travesty


Scottsboro Boys Travesty
Olin Montgomery

May 3, 1934: after a May Day rally to support them, Olen Montgomery wrote to his mother:  “That thing they had here on May Day what good did it do. Not any at all. I’m still locked up in the cell. Instead of the I.L.D. trying to make it better for me here in jail they are making it harder for me by trying to demand the people to do things. Listen, send me some money. Send me three dollars like I told you in my first letter.

June 12, 1934: Judge Horton, who had faced no opposition in his previous race, lost in his bid for re-election.

June 28, 1934: Samuel Leibowitz had filed for new trials. Ruling unanimously, the Alabama Supreme Court denied his request.

Scottsboro Nine Travesty


January 1935: The US Supreme Court agreed to review the most recent Scottsboro convictions.

February 15, 1935: Samuel Leibowitz argued before the US Supreme Court  that Alabama courts had excluded blacks from the Scottsboro jury pool because of their race. Leibowitz claimed that the black names currently on the jury rolls had been forged in after the fact.

April 1, 1935:  in Norris v. Alabama, the US Supreme Court ruled that the exclusion of black citizens on jury rolls deprived the Scottsboro defendants of their rights to equal protection under the law as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court overturned the convictions of Haywood Patterson and Clarence Norris and  remanded the cases to a lower court.

November 13, 1935: Creed Conyer became the first post-Reconstruction black person to sit on an Alabama grand jury in the remanded case.

December 1935: The Scottsboro Defense Committee formed with representatives of the NAACP, the International Labor Defense, the American Civil Liberties Union, the League for Industrial Democracy, and the Methodist Federation for Social Service. The organization’s main objective was to provide a united defense for the Scottsboro defendants.

Scottsboro Nine Travesty


Haywood Patterson

January 23, 1936: a jury convicted Haywood Patterson for a fourth time of rape. The sentence was lower from death to 75 years in prison. This was the first time in Alabama history a black man was sentenced to anything other than death for the rape of a white woman.

Following his sentence, Powell said, “I’d rather die than spend another day in jail for something I didn’t do.”


Ozie Powell

Scottsboro Nine Travesty
Ozie Powell

January 24, 1936:  a day later, Powell was shot in the skull after he pulled a knife on a deputy sheriff. Powell survived the injury but suffered lasting damage. Rape charges against him were dropped. He pleaded guilty in the assault on the officer and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

in December, 1936 after the Supreme Court again reversed the convictions of the Scottsboro defendants in 1936, Alabama Attorney General Thomas E Knight, Jr met secretly with their attorney Samuel S Leibowitz in New York to discuss a possible compromise.  Knight told Leibowitz he was “sick of the cases,” and that they were causing Alabama considerable political and economic harm.

According to Leibowitz, Knight by that time had come to believe that Price was lying and no rape had ever occurred.  Nonetheless, he thought jail time appropriate because at least some of the defendants were guilty of assault for having thrown the white boys off the train.  After several meetings between the two, they reached a compromise that would result in the release of four of the defendants and a reduction of sought charges for the others.

Scottsboro Nine Travesty


May 17, 1937 Alabama Attorney General Thomas Knight died. His proposed compromise was never carried out in full by the state because the new acting attorney general feared “looking soft” on rape.

June 14, 1937: Haywood Patterson’s conviction upheld by the Alabama Supreme Court.

July 15 1937: Clarence Norris convicted of rape and sentenced to death

July 22, 1937: Andy Wright convicted and sentenced to 99 years.

Scottsboro Nine Travesty

July 24, 1937

Charles Weems
  • Charlie Weems convicted and sentenced to 105 years
  • Ozie Powell pled guilty to assaulting Sheriff Edgar Blalock and sentenced to 20 years.
  • All charges against Roy Wright and Eugene Williams dropped, on account of their young age at the time of the crime, and the number of years already served. 
  • the charges against Olen Montgomery and Willie Roberson dropped on the grounds that the state no longer believes the men to be guilty.
  • an attorney picked up the newly freed men and drove them to New York City, where they appeared on stage in Harlem as performers and as curiosities. Montgomery and Leroy Wright participated in a national tour to raise money for the five men still imprisoned.

October 26, 1937: the US Supreme Court declined to review the Haywood Patterson and Clarence Norris convictions.

Scottsboro Nine Travesty


Warped Arc of Justice

in June 1938 the Alabama Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for Clarence Norris.

July 5, 1938  Alabama Governor David Bibb Graves reduced Clarence Norris’s death sentence to life in prison.

In August 1938 the Alabama Pardon Board declined to pardon Haywood Patterson and Ozie Powell.

in October 1938 the Alabama Pardon Board denied the pardon applications of Clarence Norris, Charlie Weems, and Roy Wright.

In November 1938: Alabama Governor Graves denied all pardon applications.

Scottsboro Nine Travesty


in September 1943: Charlie Weems paroled.

in January 1944: Clarence Norris and Andy Wright paroled.

in October 1944:  Clarence Norris. After fleeing north, Norris was convinced to return to Alabama, in large measure to improve the lot of the two remaining Scottsboro defendants. Although promised leniency, Norris was returned to prison. Two years later, in 1946, Norris was paroled again.

in June 1946: Ozie Powell paroled.

in October 1946: Andy Wright.  The work the parole board had found seemed no better than prison to Andy, and he fled north. Allan Knight Chalmers, the chairman of the Scottsboro Defense Committee  persuaded him to return south, in part so that Patterson and Powell’s parole hearings might have more favorable results. When Wright returned, he was imprisoned despite promises of leniency.

In July 1948: Haywood Patterson escaped from prison. Patterson sought the help of a journalist, Earl Conrad, and together they wrote The Scottsboro Boy, an account of Patterson’s life.

Scottsboro Nine Travesty


In May 1950, Andy Wright was paroled again, and Chalmers found a job for him in an Albany hospital. When asked about Victoria Price upon his release, Andy said: “I’m not mad because the girl lied about me. If she’s still living, I feel sorry for her because I don’t guess she sleeps much at night.” He was the last Scottsboro defendant to leave jail.

in December 1950: Haywood Patterson involved in a Michigan barroom fight resulting in the death of another man.  Haywood charged with murder. FBI arrested Haywood Patterson, but Michigan’s governor refuses extradition to Alabama.

September 24, 1951: Haywood Patterson convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 6 to 15 years. He died of cancer in jail on August 24, 1952. He was 39.

August 16, 1959: living in NYC Roy Wright had had a career in the US Army and the Merchant Marines. After his wife admitted to infidelities Wright shot and killed his wife and then committed suicide.

Scottsboro Nine Travesty


In 1970, Clarence Norris surfaced in New York City with a wife and two children.

In 1976 Victoria Price resurfaced. Now known as Katherine Queen Victory Street, she was suing NBC for slander and invasion of privacy for the broadcast of Judge Horton and the Scottsboro Boys, a television movie. She had married twice more since World War II and was living in Tennessee. She returned to the witness stand for her suit and told her story for the twelfth time in a court of law.

October 26, 1976: Alabama Governor George Wallace pardoned Clarence Norris.

October 27, 1976: Ruby Bates died at age sixty-three.

In July 1977,  the Courts dismissed Victoria Price’s defamation and invasion of privacy suit against NBC.

In 1979 Clarence Norris, in ”The Last of the Scottsboro Boys,” a 1979 autobiography written with Sybil D. Washington, contended that the black youths were scapegoats, caught at the wrong place at the wrong time with two white women who were afraid they would be accused of fraternizing with blacks.

Scottsboro Nine Travesty


In 1982 Victoria Price died without ever having apologized for her role in the injustice her testimony brought upon the innocent defendants.

January 23, 1989: Clarence Norris, assumed to be the last surviving Scottsboro defendant, died of Alzheimer’s disease at age 76. (see “Postscript” below)

Scottsboro Nine Travesty

21st Century

January 19, 2001: Cowboy Pictures released Scottsboro: An American Tragedy. It was a documentary film directed by Daniel Anker and Barak Goodman and written by Barak Goodman.

In January 2004: the town of Scottsboro, Alabama dedicated an historical marker in commemoration of the case at the Jackson County Court House.

Scottsboro Boys Museum

Scottsboro Boys Travesty

From it’s site: The Scottsboro Multicultural Foundation established the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center. 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” Scottsboro Boys Museum

March 10, 2010, The Scottsboro Boys, a musical with a book by David Thompson, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. The musical was one of the last collaborations between Kander and Ebb prior to the latter’s death. The musical had the framework of a minstrel show, altered to “create a musical social critique” with a company that, except for one, consists “entirely of African-American performers”.

The musical debuted Off-Broadway and then moved to Broadway in 2010 for a run of only two months. It received twelve Tony Award nominations,

April 4, 2013: Alabama Lawmakers voted to issue posthumous pardons to the nine black teenagers who were wrongly convicted of raping two white women more than 80 years earlier based on false accusations. Gov. Robert Bentley  had to sign the bill setting up a procedure to pardon the group, the so-called Scottsboro Boys, must be signed by to become law. He planned to study the legislation but has said he favored the pardons.

November 21, 2013: the State of Alabama posthumously pardoned Haywood Patterson, Charles Weems and Andy Wright, thus absolving the last of the so-called Scottsboro Boys. During a hearing in Montgomery, the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles voted unanimously to issue pardons to the three men.

Scottsboro Nine Travesty


Above it stated that when Clarence Norris died in 1989, he was the last of the nine defendants to die. The time of death for some of the defendants is unknown.

  • Olen Montgomery was born in 1914. The last information about him is  that he spent his days in New York or Atlanta occasionally receiving financial help from the NAACP.
  • Ozie Powell, born in 1916, lived and apparently died in Atlanta, Georgia.
Scottsboro Boys Travesty
Willie Roberson
  • Willie Roberson, born in 1915, had asthma that had been greatly aggravated by his time in jail and he eventually died of an asthma attack.
  • Charles Weems, born in 1911, married and settled down into obscurity. While in prison, guards tear-gassed Weems in his cell for reading International Labor Defense literature. His eyes never fully recovered.
Eugene Williams
  • Eugene Williams, born in 1918, had a a brief entertainment career, before moving to St. Louis where he had relatives who helped him adjust to a relatively stable life.
Andy Wright
  • Andy Wright,  born in 1912, had settled in Albany, NY, but eventually settled in Connecticut.
Scottsboro Nine Travesty

March 25 Peace Love Art Activism

March 25 Peace Love Art Activism

US Labor History

Anti-Labor Injunction

Mar 25, 1893: a federal court issued the first injunction against a union under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. The case, brought against the Workingman’s Amalgamated Council of New Orleans for interfering with the movement of commerce, hands managers a potent legal weapon. (see June 20)

Coxey’s Army

March 25, 1894: during the depression of 1894, Coxey’s Army, a group of unemployed set out on a march to Washington, D.C. It was the only one of several groups that had set out for the U.S. capital to actually reach its destination. Led by Jacob S. Coxey, a businessman, it left Massillon, Ohio, on March 25, 1894, with about 100 men and arrived in Washington on May 1 with about 500. Coxey hoped to persuade Congress to authorize a vast program of public works, financed by a substantial increase of the money in circulation, to provide jobs for the unemployed, but, despite the publicity his group received, it had no impact on public policy. The venture came to an ignominious end when Coxey and some of his followers were arrested for trespassing on the lawns at the Capitol. (Ohio History Central article) (see May 11)

March 25 Peace Love Art Activism

US Labor History & Feminism

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

March 25 Peace Love Art Activism

March 25, 1911: Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, more than one hundred shirtwaist makers (most of them young immigrant women) either died in the fire that broke out on the eighth floor of the factory or jumped to their deaths. Many of the workers were unable to escape because owners had locked the doors on their floors to prevent them from stealing or taking unauthorized breaks. Later, more than 100,000 people participated in the funeral march for the victims. (Cornell University article) (LH, see Apr 8; Feminism, see January > March 1912)

United Farm Workers

March 25, 1972: A New York Times article reported that “a well organized, well-financed campaign has been mounted against the United Farm Workers Union by a loose coalition that included the American Farm Bureau Federation, large corporate growers and shippers, right-to-work committees—and a variety of other conservative organizations. (see May 11 – June 4, 1972)

Pregnancy discrimination

March 25, 2015:  the Supreme Court revived a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against United Parcel Service, saying that lower courts had used the wrong standard to determine whether the company had discriminated against one of its drivers.

The case concerned Peggy Young, a UPS worker whose doctor recommended that she avoid lifting anything heavy after she became pregnant. The company refused to give her lighter duties to accommodate her and placed her on unpaid leave in 2006.

Ms. Young sued under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which required employers to treat “women affected by pregnancy” the same as “other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.”

Her lawsuit was dismissed, with a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., saying the pregnancy law does not give pregnant women “a ‘most favored nation’ status.” “One may characterize the UPS policy as insufficiently charitable,” Judge Allyson Kay Duncan wrote for that court, “but a lack of charity does not amount to discriminatory animus directed at a protected class of employees.”

The Supreme Court, by a 6-to-3 vote, vacated that decision and said Ms. Young deserved another shot at trying to prove that the company had treated her differently from “a large percentage of nonpregnant workers” who may have been offered accommodations.

UPS had since changed its policy to offer light duty to pregnant women. (Labor, see Apr 1; Feminism, see Apr 30)

March 25 Peace Love Art Activism

Cultural Milestone

March 25 Peace Love Art Activism

March 25, 1913: the home of vaudeville, the Palace Theatre, opened  in New York City. (see May 9, 1914)

March 25 Peace Love Art Activism

Black History

Scottsboro Nine

March 25, 1931: nine black youths were “hoboing” on a freight train with several white males and two white women. A fight began between the white and black groups near the Lookout Mountain tunnel, and the whites were kicked off the train. The whites complained to authorities. A posse stopped the Southern Railroad train in Paint Rock, Alabama.  Police arrested them on charges of assault.  Rape charges were added against all nine boys after accusations were made by Victoria Price and Ruby Bates, the two girls on the train.

The youths arrested were Olen Montgomery (age 17), Clarence Norris (age 19), Haywood Patterson (age 18), Ozie Powell (age 16), Willie Roberson (age 16), Charlie Weems (age 16), Eugene Williams (age 13), and brothers Andy (age 19) and Roy Wright (age 12). (see Scottsboro for expanded story)

March to Montgomery

March 25, 1965:  following the end of the march by 25,000 civil rights supporters from Selma to Montgomery after four days and nights on the road under the protection of Army troops and federalized Alabama National Guardmen. They were refused permission to give a petition to Governor Wallace which said: “We have come not only five days and 50 miles but we have come from three centuries of suffering and hardship. We have come to you, the Governor of Alabama, to declare that we must have our freedom NOW. We must have the right to vote; we must have equal protection of the law and an end to police brutality.”

During the rally that followed the refusal by the Govenor of Alabama, Governor Wallace. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated “We are not about to turn around. We, are on the move now. Yes, we are on the move and no wave of racism can stop us.”  The speech became known as the “How long? Not Long” speech or as, “Our God is Marching On.” (BH & March, see MM for expanded chronology; MLK, see Mar 30)

Viola Liuzzo and  Leroy Moton

March 25 Peace Love Art Activism

March 25, 1965: Detroit homemaker 39-year-old white Viola Liuzzo and  Leroy Moton, a 19-year-old Black had marched and assisted with the March to Montgomery. After the march, Liuzzo helped shuttle people from Montgomery back to Selma. Leroy Moton went with her. After dropping passengers in Selma, she and Moton headed back to Montgomery. On the way another car  pulled alongside and a passenger in that car shot directly at Liuzzo, hitting her twice in the head, and killing her instantly. Moton was uninjured. Within 24 hours President Lyndon Johnson appeared on national TV  to announce the arrest of Collie Wilkins (21), William Eaton (41) and Eugene Thomas (41) and an FBI informant Gary Rowe (34). Johnson stated, “Mrs. Liuzzo went to Alabama to serve the struggle for justice. She was murdered by the enemies of justice, who for decades have used the rope and the gun and the tar and feathers to terrorize their neighbors.” [Rowe was not indicted,and served as a witness.] (see Liuzzo for expanded chronology)

News Music: in 2008, Liuzzo’s story was memorialized in a song, “Color Blind Angel” by Robin Rogers. (next NM, see July 28)

George Whitmore, Jr.

March 25, 1965: DA Frank Hogan dismissed first-degree murder charges against two drifters — James Stewart, 24, and R. L. Douglas, 32 — who had been charged with the hammer-slaying of John Walshinsky, a derelict — a crime to which Stewart and Douglas confessed. The men said  that the confessions were beaten out of them.

A year later, on March 25, 1966, Whitmore was convicted for a second time in the Elba Borrero attmpted rape and assault case. (see Whitmore for expanded story)

Clarence David Stallworth

March 26, 1966: the Southern Courier, a newspaper documenting the civil rights movement, reported that, after driving in Beatrice, Alabama, Clarence David Stallworth was beaten and pistol-whipped by a group of whites that included the town mayor.

While  Stallworth, a black man, was driving through the town, a white man in another car signaled for him to stop, saying that the passenger in the white man’s car wanted to speak with him. When Stallworth stopped his car and walked around to the passenger side of the other vehicle, Mayor T.A. Black got out and hit him in the head with a pistol while the other men in the car exited and began kicking and beating Stallworth. After the attack, Stallworth was refused medical treatment from several different hospitals before finally being admitted to a hospital in Montgomery, more than eighty miles away.

Members of the black community rallied to force County Probate Judge David Nettles to sign the warrants for the arrest of the men involved in the attack. Nettles initially refused, but relented after organizers threatened to initiate a mass protest in support of Stallworth.

“I honestly feel that I am committing a wrong here,” Nettles said when contemplating authorizing the arrests of the men who had beaten Mr. Stallworth. “[But] I’ll sign that warrant tomorrow.” (see Mar 28)

Linda Brown

March 25, 2018: Linda Brown died. It was her father who objected when she was not allowed to attend an all-white school in her neighborhood and who thus came to symbolize one of the most transformative court proceedings in American history, the school desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education  in Topeka, Kan. She was 75. (see Apr 12)

March 25 Peace Love Art Activism


“Lavender Scare”

March 25 Peace Love Art Activism

March 25, 1952: the U.S. State Department announced that it had removed 126 “perverts” from employment since the beginning of the year. The actions were part of a wave of homophobia that swept Washington, D.C. and the rest of the government in the 1950s, and has been labeled the “Lavender Scare.” Senator Joe McCarthy, in particular, charged there were many homosexuals in the State Department. The New York Times article on the story used the word “perverts” in the headline. President Dwight Eisenhower contributed to the panic by revising President Truman Federal Loyalty Program on April 27, 1953, to include “immoral” behavior and “sexual perversion.” (Out History site article)

Dale Jennings

In the spring 1952: police arrested Dale Jennings, a member of the Mattachine Society, for allegedly soliciting a police officer. (see April 1952)

Richard Adams & Anthony Sullivan

March 25 Peace Love Art Activism

March 25, 1975: in what some people regard as the first same-sex marriage in the U.S., Richard Adams, his partner Anthony Sullivan, and five other gay couples were granted marriage licenses in Boulder, Colorado, on this day. The licenses were  issued by County Clerk Clela Rorex, until the state attorney general ordered her to stop.

Later in 1975, Adams and his partner/spouse Tony Sullivan applied to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to obtain permanent resident status for Sullivan, who had immigrated to the U.S. The application was denied, and the letter from INS declared that they had “failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.”  (2016 PBS article) (see Sept 16

March 25 Peace Love Art Activism

Beat Generation

Free Speech

March 25, 1957: U.S. Customs seized 520 copies of Allen Ginsberg’s  Howl

The publisher of the poem, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and a colleague, were arrested and prosecuted in San Francisco for publishing Howl (see June 3, 1957 for the arrest, and October 3, 1957 for the acquittal).

The offending line in the poem may have been,  “ . . . who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy . . . .”

Howl is now widely regarded as one of the great American poems, and the classic statement of the 1950s Beat Generation. Ginsburg first read Howl publicly on October 6, 1955.

Ferlinghetti was the founder/owner of City Lights Bookstore and the publisher of City Lights Books. City Lights Bookstore is still selling books in San Francisco, and has been designated a historical landmark in the city. Ferlinghetti, moreover, is himself an acclaimed Beat Generation poet. (BG/Howl, see Apr 3; FS, see June 3)

March 25 Peace Love Art Activism



On March 24, 1965 the Students for a Democratic Society had organized the first Vietnam War teach-in at University of Michigan. Two hundred faculty members participated by holding special anti-war seminars. Regular classes were canceled, and rallies and speeches dominated for 12 hours. The next day, March 25, 1965,  there was a similar teach-in at Columbia University in New York City; this form of protest eventually spread to many colleges and universities.

Alice Herz

On March 16, 1965 Quaker Alice Herz, 82, had immolated herself in Detroit in protest of the Vietnam war. On March 25, 1965, she died. (Vietnam, see April; see Immolation for other stories)


March 25, 1966: anti-Vietnam war protests in NY bring out 25,000 on 5th Ave. Other protests in 7 US cities and 7 foreign cities. (see Mar 31)


March 25, 1967:  King led a march of 5,000 antiwar demonstrators in Chicago. In an address to the demonstrators, King declared that the Vietnam War was “a blasphemy against all that America stands for.” King first began speaking out against American involvement in Vietnam in the summer of 1965. In addition to his moral objections to the war, he argued that the war diverted money and attention from domestic programs to aid the black poor. He was strongly criticized by other prominent civil rights leaders for attempting to link civil rights and the antiwar movement. (Vietnam, see Mar 28, MLK, see Apr 4)

Johnson’s “Wise Men”

March 25, 1968: after being told by Defense Secretary Clark Clifford that the Vietnam War is a “real loser,” President Johnson, still uncertain about his course of action, decided to convene a nine-man panel of retired presidential advisors. The group, which became known as the “Wise Men,” included the respected generals Omar Bradley and Matthew Ridgway, distinguished State Department figures like Dean Acheson and George Ball, and McGeorge Bundy, National Security advisor to both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. After two days of deliberation the group reached a consensus: they advised against any further troop increases and recommended that the administration seek a negotiated peace. Although Johnson was initially furious at their conclusions, he quickly came to believe that they were right.  (Politico article) (see Mar 31)

Hue Falls

March 25, 1975: Hue, South Vietnam’s third largest city fell to the North Vietnamese Army (see April 2)

March 25 Peace Love Art Activism

March 25 Music et al

Life magazine

March 25, 1966: Life magazine published cover article on LSD. “LSD: The Exploding Threat of the Mind Drug that Got Out of Control.” (shroomery dot org article) (see in April)

Acid Test

March 25, 1966:  Acid Test at the Troupers Club in Los Angeles. (see in April)

The Who and Cream

March 25, 1967: The Who and Cream made their US concert debuts at the same concert. New York DJ, Murray the K used to put on concerts. On this bill, which would run from March 25 to April 2, there were 5 shows a day, starting at 10am and going well past midnight.

The Who destroyed their instruments at each performance. Pete Townsend said: “We were smashing our instruments up five times a day. We did two songs – the act was twelve minutes long and we used to play “Substitute” and “My Generation” with the gear – smashing it at the end, and then we’d spend the twenty minutes between shows trying to rebuild everything so we could smash it up again.” (see June 10 – 11)

Happy Together

March 25 – April 14, 1967: “Happy Together” by the Turtles #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.


March 25 – 31, 1969: John Lennon and Yoko Ono host a “Bed-In” for peace in their room at the Amsterdam Hilton, turning their honeymoon into an antiwar event. (Beatles, see Mar 31; Lennon, see May 26; Vietnam, see Mar 26)

Jimi Hendrix

March 25, 1970: release of “Band of Gypsys” LP, It was a live album by Jimi Hendrix and the first without his original group, The Jimi Hendrix Experience. He recorded it at the Fillmore East in New York City with Billy Cox on bass and Buddy Miles on drums. This grouping is frequently referred to as the Band of Gypsys. It contained previously unreleased songs and was the last full-length Hendrix album released before his death. (see Aug 26)

Soul Train

March 25, 2006: TV show, Soul Train, ended after nearly a 35 year run. (see March 13, 2012)

March 25 Peace Love Art Activism

Symbionese Liberation Army

March 25, 1974: Food given away to 30,000 people in P.I.N.’s fifth and final distribution. (see Patti Hearst for expanded story)

March 25 Peace Love Art Activism


March 25, 1998: Marcia Lewis, Monica Lewinsky’s mother, failed to persuade a federal judge to excuse her from a third day of testimony. Starr subpoenaed records from Kramerbooks & Afterwords on Monica Lewinsky’s purchases at the store. One of her purchases was reportedly Nicholson Baker’s “Vox,” a novel about phone sex. Jodie Torkelson testified. (see Clinton for expanded story)

March 25 Peace Love Art Activism

Kandahar massacre

March 25, 2012: Afghan and American officials said that the US government had given $50,000 to each of the families of the 16 Afghan villagers killed by Staff Sgt. Rober. (see June 1)

March 25 Peace Love Art Activism

Voting Rights


March 25, 2015: the Supreme Court sided with black and Democratic lawmakers in Alabama who said the State Legislature had relied too heavily on race in its 2012 state redistricting by maintaining high concentrations of black voters in some districts.

The vote was 5 to 4, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy joining the court’s four more liberal members to form a majority. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the majority, said a lower court had erred in considering the case on a statewide basis rather than district by district. He added that the lower court had placed too much emphasis on making sure that districts had equal populations and had been “too mechanical” in maintaining existing percentages of black voters.

The Supreme Court vacated the lower court’s ruling and sent the two consolidated cases — Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, No. 13-895, and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama, No. 13-1138 — back to it for reconsideration. (see Apr 6)

March 25 Peace Love Art Activism

Affordable Care Act

American Health Care Act

March 25, 2017: President Donald Trump announced that the House of Representatives would postpone a planned vote on the American Health Care Act. The announcement came while a debate over the bill was still playing out in the House chamber, with GOP leaders realizing they lacked the votes to prevail. It was not clear when or if Congress planned to resume consideration of repeal. (see May 4)

Trump requests complete invalidation

March 25, 2019: the Trump told a federal appeals court that it now believed the entire Affordable Car Act should be invalidated.

In the letter, the Justice Department said the court should affirm a judgment (see December 14, 2018) by Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court in Fort Worth.

O’Connor said that the individual mandate requiring people to have health insurance “can no longer be sustained as an exercise of Congress’s tax power” because Congress had eliminated the tax penalty for people who go without health insurance.

Accordingly, O’Connor said, “the individual mandate is unconstitutional” and the remaining provisions of the Affordable Care Act are also invalid. (next Health-related, see Mar 27; next ACA, see Apr 1)

March 25 Peace Love Art Activism


March 25, 2019: NJ reform advocates experienced a setback after bill to legalize cannabis in New Jersey was pulled from the agenda due to a lack of votes to pass the legislation in the Senate.

The proposal would have allowed adults 21 and older to possess, consume and purchase marijuana from licensed retailers. It included a number of social equity provisions meant to encourage participation in the industry by individuals from communities most harmed by the war on drugs, and it also would’ve created a pathway for expedited expungements for prior cannabis convictions. (see Mar 27 or see CCC for expanded chronology)

March 25 Peace Love Art Activism

Women’s Health

NC law unconstitutionsal

March 25, 2019: U.S. District Judge William Osteen  ruled that a North Carolina law making it harder for women to get an abortion after 20 weeks was unconstitutional.

The law, which had been on the books since 1973, banned abortion after 20 weeks with only certain exceptions to protect the life of the mother. A 2015 amendment tightened those exceptions, criminalizing abortion unless the woman’s life or a “major bodily function” were at immediate risk. Pro-abortion rights groups challenged the law, and Osteen sided with them.

The Supreme Court has clearly advised that a state legislature may never fix viability at a specific week but must instead leave this determination to doctors,” Osteen wrote. (see Apr 12)

Clinic burned

March 25, 2022:  Lorna Roxanne Green broke into Wellspring Health Access, poured gasoline on its floors,  and lit it on fire, causing an estimated $290,000 in damage. The clinic’s opening would be delayed until April 2 [WyoFile article] (next WH, see Oct 20; next Green, see September 28, 2023).

March 25 Peace Love Art Activism