Scottsboro Trials Webquest

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TKaMScottsboro Trials Webquest

It is tempting to focus on overview information when doing research so that you get “everything” done, but please read some of the primary documents (if not the majority). Overviews would not be possible without them. It will also help you see these people through their own words, not the lenses of a third party.

Scottsboro Trial

This site is composed of excerpts from primary documents: court transcripts, news articles, judge’s opinions.

Famous American Trials: "The Scottsboro Boys" Trials, 1931 - 1937

This site has images and biographical sketches in addition to primary documents.

American Experience: Scottsboro, An American Tragedy

This PBS site has information about a documentary, primary documents, maps and timelines, as well as images and biographies. It also includes places for reactionary thinking.

Scottsboro Trials

This site has a general overview, but lacks in depth information.

The Trials (6)

  • Who was involved? Know names.

  • What happened? What happened during the trials? What are the facts of the case? What was the verdict? What was learned afterwards?

  • When did the trials (or any appeals) occur?

  • Where did this happen?

  • Why did this occur?

  • How did this affect America? Explain.

Connection to the Novel (17)

  • (2 points) Why did the prosecution group some of the men to be tried together in one case? If you were a defense attorney for one of these young men, why might you argue against your client being grouped with some of the other young men?

  • (2 points) Were the Scottsboro Boys as lucky as Tom Robinson with their lawyers? Defend your response with two details from the site.

  • (4 points) Give two details about the social and economic climate of the 1930s. Were these details noted in To Kill a Mockingbird? Use two examples from the text to support your claim.

  • (1 points) Why would these women falsely accuse the boys? Consider economics and the social morays of the time in your answer.

  • (1 points) Do societal and economic pressures ever excuse such behaviors? Explain.

  • (3 points) Was Lee trying to explain the behavior of the Ewells or other townspeople in her book? Explain, and defend your response with two examples from the text.

  • (4 points) In To Kill a Mockingbird Atticus claims the courtroom has the potential to be a great equalizer (205). How would you rate the treatment of the Scottsboro Boys, equal to that of whites or unequal? Defend your response with two details. How would you rate the treatment of Tom Robinson, equal to that of whites or unequal? Defend your response with two details.

Opening Questions– Reaction (4)

  • What did your research make you think or feel?

  • What are your opinions of the people involved in both the fictional and true cases: defendants, accusers, attorneys, judges?

  • Does knowing the historical events such as the Scottsboro trial bring to life Tom Robinson's story in To Kill a Mockingbird? Explain.

Core Question – Textual Relationship (7)

  • Consider Atticus’ statement about walking in “someone else’s skin” in relation to the accusers in both cases. What could their possible motivations have been? Was it racism? Was it an attempt to escape societal judgment/criminal prosecution against their own characters? Is the blame only theirs or does it also rest with a society that punishes its poor?

  • How does the process of dehumanization within a society or group contribute to the women (both real and fictional) feeling “okay” with false accusations or making these men scapegoats?

  • Based on your readings of the Scottsboro trials (and the society in which he lived), does Atticus Finch’s courageous defense of Tom Robinson seem realistic or overly idealistic? Explain.

  • Since Atticus was appointed by the judge to defend Tom Robinson, some critics argue that he is not a hero or a moral lawyer because he was living his life as a passive participant and did not actively attempt to change racism or sexism. Do you agree? Explain.

Closing Questions – Personal and Societal Relevance (4)

  • What have you learned as a result of this research?

  • How does TKaM reflect the values of the time period in which it is set? Is it relevant to our society today? Should this book continue to be taught?

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