The Scottsboro Boys.

The Scottsboro Boys is a stage musical based on the real-life Scottsboro Boys case of 1931.



As she is waiting for a bus, a lady lifts a corner of a cake box she's holding. As it brings back memories, the scene around her fades aways, and the minstrels arrive. The Interlocutor, the host of the Minstrel Show, introduces the players in the troupe, including Mr. Bones and Mr. Tambo, then begins the story of the Scottsboro Boys.

In 1931, Haywood Patterson, one of the nine boys riding in a boxcar on a train to Memphis, is ready to see the world. As the train is stopped, two white girls jump out, and two policemen recognize them as prostitutes. To get away, they accuse the nearby boys of rape, and the boys are sent to jail. At their trial, their lawyer is drunk and mounts no defense, and Haywood, speaking for the boys, can only respond that he has done nothing. They are found guilty and are sentenced to death at Kilby Prison. Eugene, the youngest, has nightmares. Awaiting execution, the boys long to return home. Just as the executions are about to begin, the verdict is overturned. In the North, the case has become a cause celebre, and the Supreme Court has ruled the boys didn't have effective counsel. While the boys aren't free, they do get another trial.

A year later, they are still in prison. Haywood learns to write, and shares his short story. The next trial gets under way in the spring of 1933. Public outrage over the trial has grown, especially in the North. They are given a New York lawyer, Samuel Leibowitz, to represent them to court. During the trial, Ruby Bates, one of the girls, surprises the court and admits that the boys are innocent. But, upon cross-examination, the Southern District Attorney makes Antisemitic claims that Ruby Bates' change of heart was purchased by Liebowitz.

While the boys sit in a holding cell, waiting for the verdict, they talk about what they will do when the trial is over, believing that they can't be found guilty of crime that never happened. They talk about heading North, but the Interlocutor reminds them that they belong in the South. The boys are found guilty again and are sent back to prison. Haywood tries to escape in order to see his mother before she dies, but he's quickly caught.

As time passes, Leibowitz continues to appeal the verdict. In every trial, the boys are found guilty. Even the other girl, Victoria Price, begins to buckle, tired of being dragged to repeated trials, but she never recants her testimony. One of the boys, Ozzie Powell, is shot in the head after assaulting a guard and is left brain-damaged. By 1937, four of the youngest boys are released, but the other five remain in prison. Haywood wonders: "Will there ever be justice?" Finally, Haywood is brought up for parole in front of the governor of Alabama, but is demanded to plead guilty. Haywood dies twenty-one years later in prison. As the show ends, the Interlocutor calls for the finale. The boys appear dressed in full-blown Minstrel attire and blackface, alternating between a high-energy closing number and solemnly relating how their experiences in prison left them unable to leave normal lives. The Interlocutor calls for the cakewalk, but the boys refuse, wiping off their make-up in defiance, and disappear.

The scene fades back to the bus stop, just as the bus arrives. The lady, who is, in fact, Rosa Parks, boards the bus. The driver tells her to sit in the back to make room for a white man to sit down, but she refuses to comply

Musical numbers

  • Minstrel March – Orchestra
  • Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey! – Company
  • Commencing in Chattanooga – Haywood and Scottsboro Boys
  • Alabama Ladies – Victoria Price and Ruby Bates
  • Nothin' – Haywood
  • Electric Chair – Guards, Eugene, Electrofied Charlie, and Electrofied Issac
  • Go Back Home – Haywood, Eugene, and Scottsboro Boys
  • Shout! – Scottsboro Boys
  • Make Friends with the Truth – Haywood, Billy, and Scottsboro Boys
  • That's Not the Way We Do Things – Samuel Leibowitz
  • Never Too Late – Ruby Bates and Scottsboro Boys
  • Financial Advice – Attorney General
  • Southern Days – Scottsboro Boys
  • Alabama Ladies (Reprise) – Victoria Price
  • It's Gonna Take Time – Interlocutor
  • Zat So – Governor of Alabama, Samuel Leibowitz, and Haywood
  • You Can't Do Me – Haywood
  • The Scottsboro Boys – Scottsboro Boys
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