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The alleged rape victims in the Scottsboro case were Victoria Price, age twenty-one, and teenager Ruby Bates.Price and Bates were from poor families who lived in the racially mixed town of Huntsville, Alabama.Clarence Norris (1912–1989) and Haywood Patterson (1913–1952), the subjects portrayed in NPG’s pastel by African American artist Aaron Douglas, were prominent figures in the case.
Douglas was undoubtedly moved by the cover of an ILD pamphlet that featured photographs of Norris and Patterson surrounded by the phrases “save our lives,” “they must not burn,” and “join the fight to free them.” Even more powerful is Douglas’s wordless copy of the two likenesses.
The stark, isolated faces, drawn in beautifully blended pastels, mutely confront their audience.
The Kansas-born artist, armed with a BFA from the University of Nebraska, settled in New York City in 1925 and became the leading visual artist for the Harlem Renaissance.
After publishing his drawings in Alain Locke’s and in national magazines, Douglas illustrated thirteen books by such acclaimed authors as Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, and James Weldon Johnson.
By this time, a one-year fellowship had exposed Douglas to the modern European and African art collected by Albert C.
Scottsboro Trial Research Paper Critical Thinking Revision
Barnes, and he had spent another year studying in Paris. He had joined the Communist Party in the early 1930s, and as head of the Harlem Artists Guild, he was demanding more black participation in the WPA’s art program.In his illustrations and painted murals, Douglas created new, modernist prototypes to express the African American experience, incorporating influences from Egyptian art, West African sculpture, cubist painting, and Art Deco design.Ultimately, he became an influential professor at Fisk University.Their involvement rallied protests from whites and minorities alike around the world.As the nine youths languished in the brutal Alabama prison system, their lives were largely destroyed; together, they spent 130 years in jail, despite the recantation of one of the alleged victims.Like Reiss, Douglas focused on the essential humanity and dignity of his subjects.This drawing was probably made around 1935, when the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the convictions in the Norris and Patterson cases because of Alabama’s exclusion of blacks from the jury rolls.Outnumbered, the white teens either jumped or were thrown from the train as it pulled from the station.Seeking revenge, some of the white youth reported to the Stevenson train master that the black youth had assaulted two white women still on the train. there is no protection for any one, man or woman, black or white." These words were spoken in January 1936 by defense attorney C. Watts at the fourth trial of Haywood Patterson, one of nine young black men known as the Scottsboro Boys, accused of raping two white women.Watts urged the all white jury "to do the right thing" in spite of heavy public pressure for a guilty decision.