An Innocent Man in Prison


Haywood Patterson was one of the so-called Scottsboro Boys, nine African American teenagers and young men, ages 13 to 20, who were accused in Alabama of raping two white women in 1931. Even though no evidence of rape was found and one of the women recanted her story on the witness stand, a lengthy series of trials were held. The cases included a lynch mob prior to the indictments, all-white juries, rushed trials, and disruptive mobs. This chapter of American history is commonly cited as a landmark example of injustice in the United States legal system.

Haywood Patterson was 18 years old when he was arrested and indicted. In the trials that followed, he was sentenced to death three separate times but, after mistrials, re-trials, and appeals, he was eventually sentenced to serve 75 years in prison—for a crime he did not commit.

In Scottsboro Boy, Patterson tells his story with the help of a collaborator, journalist Earl Conrad. Patterson gives a detailed, first-person account of the conditions and the abuse he endured at the notorious Atmore State Prison Farm. Ultimately, Patterson was transferred to Kilby Prison, a more modern facility at the time, seen here pictured in postcards from the period. The treatment he received there, however, was anything but modern. After managing to escape and receiving protection, he was able to write this book and expose the atrocities taking place in these Alabama prisons for the world to see. The first printing of the book sold out immediately and this second printing was produced within the same month.

Patterson died of cancer at the age of 39, just two years after this book was published. Over sixty years later, in 2013, the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles posthumously pardoned Patterson along with two other Scottsboro boys, Charles Weems and Andy Wright. They were the last men whose wrongful convictions had not yet been overturned or pardoned.

Author/Photographer Conrad, Earl
Patterson, Haywood, 1913 or 1914- author
Publisher London: Victor Gollancz, Ltd.
Date 1950
Institution Kent State University
Repository Special Collections and Archives
Provenance/Collection Borowitz Collection
Finding aid Borowitz Crime Ephemera: Prison Postcards Collection
LC Classification Number HV8658.P38 P38 1950a
Portion Digitized Dust jacket front
Access Rights This digital object is owned by Kent State University and may be protected by U.S. Copyright law (Title 17, USC). Please include proper citation and credit for use of this item. Use in publications or productions is prohibited without written permission from Kent State University. Please contact the Department of Special Collections and Archives for more information.
Duplication Policy
Date Copyrighted 1950
DPLA Rights Statement
Format of Original book


Curated by Kathleen Siebert Medicus with guest contributors