Taylor combines the story of his own family’s history with the infamous trials of the Scottsboro Boys and the burgeoning activism of Rosa Parks in the racially segregated and tumultuous South.
In 1931, nine young black men were accused of gang raping two white women on a freight train traveling from Chattanooga to Memphis, Tenn. Taylor (Literary Ramblings, 2010) presents a richly detailed account of the events that led to the arrest and subsequent trials of those men, who later became known as the Scottsboro Boys. In addition to highlighting issues of Constitutional rights, human rights and racial prejudice, the case illuminated the tensions between North and South, still evident six decades after the Civil War. Publicity of the case laid bare the racial attitudes of the post-slavery era, which Taylor recounts with remarkable finesse. He’s critical without being harshly judgmental, and he takes care to discuss the rich soil where the roots of prejudice took hold and flourished. Taylor is also profoundly respectful as he explains his refusal to use the N-word, even though “historical purists, grammarians and educators may fault me.” As the seemingly endless series of trials and appeals drags on, Taylor also follows the life of Rosa Parks and his own father, Waights Taylor Sr., who Taylor discovers had a brief connection to the case. Noting that Clarence Norris (one of the Scottsboro Boys), Rosa McCauley Parks, and Waights Taylor Sr. were eighteen years old on the day the Scottsboro events began, Taylor uses their life stores as the book's unifying arc to tie together the historical events described in the book. It’s an engrossing tale that marries fine attention to detail with a creative, engaging writing style. It’s no mere retelling of history, as Taylor uses meticulous research to breathe vibrant life into the major players.
An intense work of history that sharply outlines a period of violent injustice in America’s history.