SCOTTSBORO, Ala. (AP) – Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed a resolution Friday posthumously pardoning a group of black youths who were wrongfully convicted of raping two white women more than 80 years ago.
Bentley signed House Joint Resolution 20 to formally exonerate the Scottsboro Boys, who ranged from 13 to 19 years old. The ceremony was held at the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center.
The nine boys were accused in 1931 and were convicted by an all-white jury. All nine, except for the youngest boy, were sentenced to death, although one woman recanted her story and said she fabricated the rape allegations. They all were eventually released from prison.
Bentley said the state can’t take back what happened but can make it right moving forward.
“It’s important to clear the names of the Scottsboro Boys,” Bentley said in a statement. “This is the result of a bipartisan, cooperative effort, and I appreciate everyone who worked together to make this legislation a reality.”
Sheila Washington, founder and director of the museum, called the pardon a great step toward correcting the injustice and said the case of the Scottsboro Boys is an example of why pardons and exonerations are so important.
Officials said the pardons show a transition in the state’s collective mindset while acknowledging that the move doesn’t erase Alabama’s miscarriage of justice.
“The Legislature’s unanimous passage of this important legislation and Governor Bentley’s signature show that today’s Alabama is far removed from the one that caused such pain for so many so long ago,” Hubbard said.