City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Scottsboro Boys

By Irene Brown - Posted on 03 April 2013


It was an intriguing old photo from a Glasgow newspaper that had belonged to my Dad that led me to find out about the tragic tale of the Scottsboro Boys. The old Press photo showed a black woman heading up some kind of demonstration in the 1930s, the time of the Depression.

Her prominence was unusual at the time on the double count of her gender and her colour. My research led me to the knowledge that this woman was Ada Wright. She was the mother of two boys, Roy and Andy, who had been arrested in Alabama with seven other black boys in 1931 and falsely accused of rape by two white women.

They were all poor and had all been riding the freight train from Chattanooga to seek work. The youths were quickly tried, pronounced guilty and sentenced to death. The injustice of the case made it a cause célèbre and the American and British Left (The International Labour Defence) persuaded her to undertake a European tour to appeal for her sons’ lives.

I wrote an article on my quest and discovery which was published in History Scotland and on the US site Black Past and was displayed at the Scottsboro Museum on the 80th Anniversary of the arrest.

The tragic case of the Scottsboro Boys had a powerful impact on American history and on the Civil Rights Movement. Their trial led to the passage of two pivotal Supreme Court rulings, including the right to proper legal representation and the right to trial by a jury of one’s peers, specifically ensuring that black people could no longer be excluded from juries.

Now, over 80 years later, a daring and innovative show about the Scottsboro Boys comes to London’s Young Vic theatre for its UK premiere. The show is chiming with an Act currently before Senate to finally have the remaining eight of the nine Scottsboro Boys pardoned. (The ninth, Clarence Norris, was pardoned by George Wallace in 1976.)

With music and lyrics from the long standing partnership of John Kander and Fred Ebb who brought us Chicago and Cabaret, this looks like another masterpiece celebrating a pivotal part of history.

The show premiered in New York in 2010 and was nominated for 12 Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Director. Their work is now keeping another important human story alive with The Scottsboro Boys.

This exciting show will be choreographed by award-winning director Susan Stroman, one of Broadway’s most prolific major talents and a previous collaborator with Kander and Ebb. The text is from writer and playwright David Thompson who received Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations and the Outer Critics Circle and Lucille Lortel Award for his book of The Scottsboro Boys.

Tony-winning and Tony-nominated producer Catherine Schreiber has received the Key to the City of Scottsboro, Alabama for her work in promoting the Scottsboro Boys Museum that is run by its indefatigable founder, Shelia Washington. Shelia is currently behind the Scottsboro Boys Act to have all nine Scottsboro Boys posthumously exonerated.

The Scottsboro Boys Musical is a worthy, exciting and timeous event that is awaited with great anticipation, even here in Edinburgh!

Show times (Young Vic London)

for 5 weeks only: 18 October - 23 November 2013

Monday to Saturday at 7:30pm / Wednesday & Saturday matinees at 2:30pm

No matinees on 19, 23, 26, 30 October


£10, £19.50, £25, £35

Previews: (18-28 Oct): £10, £15, £19.50

Box office: / 020 7922 2922

A limited number of concessions are available for each performance. Early booking is advised.