Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center.

OK. Now rewind the clock 80 years. And envision life in the South.
In all of these cases young men were mercilessly falsely accused. Lives were ruined and the course of history shifted forever.
I had the distinct privilege to visit the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center. The occasion was the Juneteenth Celebration. The location was Scottsboro, Alabama on Willow Street.
On its website, the museum posts its mission statement:
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 museum

The museum is a riveting tribute to the nine young men whose lives were ripped apart on a train ride from Tennessee to Alabama. Artifacts, photographs, documents, newspaper clippings, courtroom testimonies are abundant. For the historians it is a wellspring. For students it is a walk through history. For passersby it is a jolting reminder that the past is not too far away from the present.
It is not only a tribute to the young men as a collective group but also to each young man as an individual.  Also in the museum are exonerations and resolutions which restored their good names decades after the incident.

The Location

The museum is located in the former Joyce United Methodist church. Apparently this is the precise location where 1930s prayer vigils were held and certain individuals connected with the trial were positioned.

The  curator.

For me, the most valuable part of the museum is its curator and founder, Sheila Washington. I am so blessed to be in Shelia’s presence. She has fought tirelessly for decades to see the museum come to fruition.  For every artifact, for every photograph, for every document for every square inch of the museum, Sheila has a story. I could listen to her recount details endlessly.  See her story here on YouTube.

The impact.

Scottsboro Boys
Individual tributes to each of the 9 young men
On numerous occasions, I have had the privilege of visiting The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN, The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, as well as the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. For me, the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center stands on equal footing in terms of richness of history, diligent curators, commitment to keep the story alive. For all four of these museums, when I left the grounds, I became passionate about educating myself and learning more about history and significant people.  I applaud Sheila Washington and her team for their diligence and I look forward to them receiving the positive media attention, the underwriting and the tourism levels that they richly deserve.

The train track.

The train track running beside Hwy 35

As we were leaving town, my friend and I were driving along Hwy 35 and I noticed a railway parallel to the highway. I found it a significant moment in that we were witnessing a place of train travel in the backdrop of the museum and in the spirit of what the young men among the Scottsboro Boys experienced traveling on that fateful “train ride to tragedy”.

The Venue

Captivating facts and documents
Consider having your next meeting or event at the museum. It is a powerful platform for a significant event.  Allow your group to walk through history while being engulfed with hindsight and foresight.
Sheila shares knowledge with all who will listen

Here is a link to highlights from the 2014 Juneteenth Celebration.


3 thoughts on “Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center.

  1. . . . thank you for such a worthy share~ i dare say that one of the Scottsboro women who accused those boys, I am told, eventually settled in Huntsville for a period of time– the dark haired one. The Huntsville Times wrote a story which shared the former information and I had saved a copy of that edition but I have since lost track of my copy of it–


  2. This is so worthy and should be a must see for all our black students, especially the boys. We can all learn from it. So much of our history is not available to our children. This could be a great field trip. Thank you so much for sharing!


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