February 2020, Nonfiction

Accused! by Larry Dane Brimner

Accused!: The Trials of the Scottsboro Boys: Lies, Prejudice, and the Fourteenth Amendment by Larry Dane Brimner. October 15, 2019. Calkins Creek, 189 p. ISBN: 9781629797755.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

This chilling and harrowing account tells the story of the Scottsboro Boys, nine African-American teenagers who, when riding the rails during the Great Depression, found their lives destroyed after two white women falsely accused them of rape. Award-winning author Larry Dane Brimner explains how it took more than eighty years for their wrongful convictions to be overturned.

In 1931, nine teenagers were arrested as they traveled on a train through Scottsboro, Alabama. The youngest was thirteen, and all had been hoping to find something better at the end of their journey. But they never arrived. Instead, two white women falsely accused them of rape. The effects were catastrophic for the young men, who came to be known as the Scottsboro Boys. Being accused of raping a white woman in the Jim Crow south almost certainly meant death, either by a lynch mob or the electric chair. The Scottsboro boys found themselves facing one prejudiced trial after another, in one of the worst miscarriages of justice in U.S. history. They also faced a racist legal system, all-white juries, and the death penalty. Noted Sibert Medalist Larry Dane Brimner uncovers how the Scottsboro Boys spent years in Alabama’s prison system, enduring inhumane conditions and torture. The extensive back matter includes an author’s note, bibliography, index, and further resources and source notes.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Mild language, Racism

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. Brimner, who won the 2018 Sibert Award for his book Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961, now looks at the case of the Scottsboro boys, nine black teenagers who were arrested and falsely accused of raping two white women in 1931. The teenagers were riding the rails, hoping to find work in Alabama. Instead, they got into a fight with some white boys and were arrested when the train was stopped. But the fight wasn’t the only trouble they found—two white women who had been aboard the train accused them of rape. Brimner has his work cut out for himself in telling this complicated story. There are numerous accounts from defendants, witnesses, and lawyers; the perspective switches between the accused young men, who at times turn on each other; and the story contains important political and social elements, including an exploration of racism and the willingness of a Communist organization to defend the nine to promote its ideology. Not all the plates are kept in the air, but Brimner gives the narrative both heft and heart. The book’s design uses black-and-white photos to good advantage. A solid look at a noteworthy event that touched upon many aspects of U.S. society.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2019)
Brimner (Blacklisted!, 2018, etc.) revisits the history of injustice in America. Brimner has extensively researched the heartbreaking story of the suffering and stolen futures of nine African American teens falsely accused of the rape of two white women in Alabama in 1931, laying all the facts on the table in a concise, gripping volume. The engaging, easy-to-follow text will draw readers into a historical account that mirrors many of today’s headlines. Ultimately, it took over 80 years for justice to finally be served for these young men; they were not fully exonerated until 2013. In the meantime, they were nearly lynched, attacked and beaten by guards, and faced execution. Even after they were released from prison, their lives were ruined, and they were never able to fully recover. The text is enhanced with primary sources including photos, newspaper clippings, ephemera, and court documents that give readers a sense of immediacy. The author’s note provides context about the enduring impact of the trials. This volume stands as a reminder to readers that lies have consequences and that no matter how long it takes, “We need to right the wrongs that have been done in the past.” The parallels between the perils the Scottsboro Boys endured and current news stories show the continued relevance of this history, making this a must-have for both school and public libraries. Engaging and historically accurate; highly recommended. (author’s note, bibliography, source notes, index, picture credits) (Nonfiction. 13-adult)

About the Author

Larry Dane Brimner is the recipient of the 2018 Robert F. Sibert Award for the most distinguished informational book for children for his title Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961. He is known for his well-researched, innovative, and award-winning nonfiction for young readers, and is the author of multiple acclaimed civil rights titles, including Strike!: The Farm Workers’ Fight for Their Rights; and Black & White: The Confrontation between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene “Bull” Connor.

His website is www.brimner.com.

Teacher Resources

Scottsboro Boys Lesson Plan

Around the Web

Accused! on Amazon

Accused! on Barnes and Noble

Accused! on Goodreads

Accused! on LibraryThing

Accused! Publisher Page

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