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.
Patterson, Haywood, 1913 or 1914- author
London: Victor Gollancz, Ltd.
Kent State University
Special Collections and Archives
Borowitz Crime Ephemera: Prison Postcards Collection
|LC Classification Number
HV8658.P38 P38 1950a
Dust jacket front
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Curated by Kathleen Siebert Medicus with guest contributors