Visiting the Scottsboro Boys Museum

VIDEO: Scottsboro Boys museum

SCOTTSBORO, Ala. (WAFF) - Shelia Washington was 17-years-old when she discovered a book hidden under the mattress of her parents bed.

The story inside the book would change her life.

89 years ago, two white women accused nine African American teenagers of raping them aboard a Southern Railroad freight train in Scottsboro, Alabama.

Today, that chair sits inside the former Joyce Chapel United Methodist Church.

The 151 year old building is the home of the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center.

Washington bought the building and turned it into a personal labor of love.

“I found my purpose and my destiny when this museum opened. It was in my heart and mind that I had to do it,” said Washington.

A chance, Washington says, to educate people on the injustices these 9 men went through.

Their trials lasted just two days at the Scottsboro courthouse before an all-white jury.

All but the youngest teenager received the death penalty.

The case eventually ended up in the hands of the U-S Supreme Court, where it led to two historic decisions: the case opened the doors to allow African Americans to serve on juries and it insured defendants the right to adequate representation.

It was in 1937 when one of the women who accused the men of rape recanted her story, saying it never happened. That led to five of the boy's convictions being over turned. One of the men was pardoned.

On November 21, 2013 the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles granted posthumous pardons to the final 3 Scottsboro Boys and overturned their convictions.

“So this story goes on to show you that lives matter, all lives matter," said Washington. “You know we have this black lives matter but I tell them in this situation all lives matter. This museum isn’t just for the blacks, not for the whites. It’s for everyone to come and hear the story how something bad happened and then something good came out of it.”

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