Document 1: Helen Marcy, "Whip Up Lynch Mobs Against 9 Negroes in Alabama," Southern Worker, 4 April 1931, pp. 1-2.


    "Helen Marcy" was a pseudonym used by Isabelle Allen who, along with her spouse, Sol Auerbach (pseudonym James S. Allen), founded the weekly newspaper Southern Worker in 1930 at the request of the Communist Party for a southern based news outlet.[3] Marcy wrote on-the-scene coverage of the Scottsboro Boys, beginning as early as March 31, 1931. Her first by-lined story on the trials appeared in the Southern Worker, which was published in Chattanooga, Tennessee, home to four of the defendants.

    Marcy's reportage captured the tension of the indictment hearing and the egregious lapses of the criminal justice system. Her depiction of members of the lynch mob as pawns of the merchants and the media, "used by the bosses and the bosses' press," continued as a theme in the Communist press and fed the fires of protest, while defining the struggle in both racial and class terms. Her report also drew a parallel between the mob--"farmers, most of them dressed in rags…with thin, emaciated faces"--and the Scottsboro Boys--"equally starving and wretched Negro workers." She concluded by calling for the white workers to unite with black workers to free the nine black youths.

    Marcy's stories of Scottsboro frequently appeared in the The Daily Worker, the Communist Party daily in New York, and, hence, informed and inflamed a much larger readership. By May 1933, the Southern Worker had relocated to Birmingham, Alabama, and no longer carried the subhead "Issued Weekly by the Communist Party of the U.S.A."[4] Rather, it had become "The Paper of the Southern Toilers." Free of any dictate for journalistic neutrality, writers like Marcy readily mixed editorializing and propagandizing with factual reporting to produce lively and evocative text, which further served to engage readers and spur them to action.




    SCOTTSBORO, Ala., March 31.—Nine Young Negro boys, charged with "forcefully ravaging" two white girls on a moving freight train, barely escaped wholesale lynching today, but a certain lynching is being prepared for the date of trial, April 6th, which is horse-swapping and general fair day here, when about 1000 farmers will be in town, incited to lynch fever by local merchants and the newspapers.

    Surly and threatening, many groups of white men hung about the courthouse here when Roy Wright, 14, Andy Wright, 17, Haywood Patterson, 17, Eugene Williams, 15, Ozie Powell, 16, Willie Robertson, 17, Olen Montgomery, 17, Charles Weems, 20, and Clarence Norris, Negroes, were brought to Scottsboro from Gadsden where they had been held for safekeeping. Twenty-five National Guardsmen marched the Negroes up the courthouse steps and the crowd of 400 farmers stood about, swayed by a carefully worked up lynch spirit. They surged into the courthouse and forced themselves into the courtroom by whispered threats against the National Guardsmen.

Indicted Immediately

    Seated high on a dais was the Judge in the center, the nine prisoners facing him and the National Guard with drawn bayonets between the lynch-hungry mob and the terrified youngsters. Every seat and all the aisles were filled to capacity.

    When the Negroes stood up to swear, the entire crowd as one also arose, menacing. All the Negroes pleaded not guilty to charges of having "forcefully ravaged, debased Virginia Price and Ruby Bates." Evidently counsel previously announced for the Negroes were afraid to come, so the judge appointed local attorneys, who certainly will participate in the legal lynching, if that farce is to be gone through.

    The Negroes were indicted immediately with no lawyers present and without a chance to explain or defend themselves. Boss justice works quickly against the workers.

Invite Lynching

    Instead of immediately rushing the prisoners back to Gadsden where they would be somewhat safer, they were marched through the main streets of the town to the city jail. In the meantime, the lynchers were trying to whip up courage. One said "Them boys (The Guards) won't use their guns on us." But, with many of the merchants absent, the crowd had no leadership and the Negroes finally go to the jail.

    These farmers, most of them dressed in rags, with no coats, in overalls patched a thousand times, with thin, emaciated faces, the result of a winter of Red Cross support, were being used by the bosses and the bosses' press to lynch equally starving and wretched Negro workers. Following is a quotation from the Chattanooga News: "How far has our vaunted Southern chivalry sunk? How far has humanity sunk when we must contemplate the frightful things that occurred in that gravel car? How is it possible that in the venture of man can exist souls like these nine?" So the News and the Birmingham Post, which are the two popular dailies in Scottsboro, are demanding a wholesale lynching of nine young Negroes.

Try Lynching

    After three hours in the jail house, the Negroes were brought out to be transported to Gadsden. In refusing a change of venue, or a change of date so as not to conflict with "horse swappin'" day in walking the prisoners across the town and then keeping them three hours in the city jail, the local merchants and political bosses are seeking every opportunity to have the Negroes lynched. And now the local driver of the police wagon gave them still another chance.

    The Guards were in their automobiles. The Negroes had just entered the crude police wagon and the crowd rushed to the scene. The driver made believe the car wouldn't run, giving the entire mob a chance to catch up. The sheriff turned on the ignition and the driver was forced to move on. Twenty-five feet down the road he tried the same trick but was again pushed forward.

    To prevent the certain lynching on April 6, the white workers and farmers of Scottsboro will have to get together with the Negroes and defend the nine youths.

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