Document 11: Viola Montgomery, "Free Our Innocent Children," Labor Defender, August 1932, p. 144.


    This appeal came from the mother of Olen Montgomery, 16, the Scottsboro Boy who was blind in one eye and who reportedly boarded the freight enroute to Memphis to get to the "fabulous hospital where they care for colored people's eyes" (see Document 23.) Viola Montgomery pleaded for the release of the Scottsboro Boys, but her message spoke as well to broader issues—conditions for workers in the South, and black and white unity in the struggle against the "boss-class."


    Dear Friends and Fellow Workers:

    I write to the LABOR DEFENDER for my son and eight more boys in jail at Kilby Prison, Montgomery, Ala.

    These boys have been in jail now much over a year and the I. L. D. is the organization that is defending the boys, so I will ask one and all to do all you can to save our boys.

    Olen is my third child and he always seemed nearest to my heart than the other children because he never was strong and he is blind in one eye. I married when I was 15 years old.

    I lost my older daughter all for the need of attention. She was sick and I had to work and Olen was only six weeks old at the time. She died at 2 years old, and I haven't been well since. I lost my health then. I had to go to work too soon. But I had to work sick or well. We stayed on a rich man's farm, and if I stayed in his house I had to work. This isn't a lie. I can prove every word I say. I won't tell a lie. There has been too many told now. I will leave that to the N. A. A. C. P. to do the lying. They sure can tell them, if they say that I'm not Olen's mother.

    I never knew anything at all about the I. L. D. until the boys were framed up, and the first time I saw one of the comrades and talked with him I saw then that that was just what I liked. I am sorry the boys are being punished like they are but may be it's all for the better, I can't tell. I have done all kinds of work for a woman of my age. I worked on a farm, washed and ironed, and cooked and housecleaned, and the first thing they tried to teach me when I went to clean for white people was to steal. They would lay down a piece of money in different places to see if I would take it. Everyone I did house work for down South would do that and I have worked for many. They knew they would not pay me enough for their work and if you got any more you would have to take it. But I knew just what they would do to me if I found the money and kept it, so I always took the money and returned it to the lady. I never gave them a chance to frame me up. I always felt that the South had to reap what she sowed, so I feel that if we workers just get together it would soon get its reward. If everybody feels like I do it wouldn't be long now. We workers have worked hard all our days and got nothing for it. I worked for 25 cents a day when I was a girl of 12 years old and since I've been grown I have worked for $1.50 a week, and the most I ever got was $10.00. But I had to go back to cleaning, washing, ironing, cooking and keeping house and looking after children, and sometime I had to stay on at night until after they got back from the show, and when I got home I wasn't good for anything. I couldn't even make up my bed and had to get into it just the same way as I went out in the morning. Some people seem to like this system, because they never knew any better. I had to have them tell me alright. They say it can't be changed. It will always be like this, and that there was no sign that it can be changed for this world isn't fit to live in as it is now. I don't believe that.

    I sure am glad that somebody has seen the right thing, for we have been shot down like rabbits, and talked to like dogs and beaten like horses long enough. I will tell you the truth that I haven't been beaten by the boss but I sure have worked hard for nothing.

    I've been so mad I didn't know what to do ever since I saw how the boss-class is trying to kill our boys for nothing. The time has come that we who say we are men and women have got to prove it and not talk so much about it.

    Written by one of the Scottsboro boys' mothers.


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