Scottsboro Boys' story told through photos at Carnegie in Decatur

Fred Hiroshige was one of six photographers allowed in the Morgan County courtroom during the Haywood Patterson trial of 1933.
Fred Hiroshige was one of six photographers allowed in the Morgan County courtroom during the Haywood Patterson trial of 1933.

DECATUR, AL (WAFF) - The Carnegie Visual Arts Center is temporarily home to the Hiroshige collection of photographs involving one of the trials of the Scottsboro Boys.  The collection is owned by the Morgan County Archives.

Fred Hiroshige was one of six photographers allowed in the Morgan County courtroom during the Haywood Patterson trial of 1933. The "portrait photographer" soon found himself capturing a slice of history.

Kathryn Silvestri is the exhibits and marketing coordinator for the Carnegie Visual Arts Center.  On this day, she led us on a tour of the photographs.

"He did do it for his own records, but he also - he would sell these photographs to different media outlets," she said.

She said the introductory panel provides background to the times, the depression and segregation.

"The first photograph there is of one of the accusers of the Scottsboro Boys. She was the older of the two accusers and they also were hoboing on trains, like the Scottsboro Boys were," said Silvestri.

Samuel Leibowitz came from New York to represent Patterson and changed the law, pointing out a lack of African Americans in a "jury of peers," according to Silvestri.

She points to an extraordinary photo of Patterson.

"It just is a haunting photograph, and it really kind of lends itself to tell you about the loneliness and the hopelessness that these young men faced. And really it followed them and haunted them throughout their entire lives," she added.

Judge James E. Horton was a stickler for the letter of the law. He made sure others obeyed the rules in his court room, but he paid a price.

"After this trial and after he declared a mistrial, he was never elected judge again and his career was over," Silvestri said.

She said the trial also put little Decatur, Alabama on the map.

"…Worldwide attention and because of that Decatur was on their best behavior. They called in the National Guard. They maintained peace and order. There was not the lynch mob atmosphere that was in Scottsboro," added Silvestri.

She said this exhibit puts faces to the names in the history books, and this exhibit brings them to life.

This is a traveling exhibition. It will be in Decatur through the end of March, but it will make its way through Bobby's Bama.

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