Michael Bartolone's Reviews > Stories of Scottsboro

Stories of Scottsboro by James  Goodman
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Dec 07, 11

bookshelves: already-have-it
Read from September 15 to November 05, 2011

Switching to non-fiction for a bit - this was a text from a law school class that I particularly enjoyed.
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Took a long time to get through - it was very dense - but very rewarding. Goodman describes, in fascinating detail, the various social and economic factors that led to such a horrific miscarriage of justice. You are still left wondering how people could do this to other innocent human beings, but after going through Goodman's analysis you can at least begin to explain how it could happen. Many Southerners in Alabama, for example, were stunned at the outcry after the first sham of a trial, as they felt they deserved to be commended for conducting an "orderly" trial and preventing a lynching.

I found the discussions relating to the different motives and tactics of the NAACP and the Communist Party, and the struggle for control of the case, to be particularly valuable. The Communists, who were already outsiders, weren't concerned about public opinion, saw the entire justice system as rotten to the core, and acted accordingly. The NAACP, by contrast, was more concerned with acceptance, and looked to bring about institutional change.

Another really enlightening narrative was how the Southern politicians - who were mostly pro-labor FDR Democrats - could be so stunningly obtuse on matters of criminal justice and basic human rights for minorities. In today's society, we traditionally associate progressive, left-leaning pro-labor and egalitarian movements with civil rights causes, but this book shows pretty clearly that it wasn't always that way.

Small criticism would be that the last 75 pages or so felt rushed, like Goodman was just cramming in the "where are they now" details to wrap up the narrative. While it was poignant to see how most of the Scottsboro Nine never recovered from their ordeal, the recap lacks the analysis that made the beginning of the book so compelling. Overall, though, highly recommended.
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Reading Progress

10/05/2011 page 140
28.0% "Slow going and tense, but fascinating."
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