The Scottsboro Boys, the Holodomor, and George Floyd

When I would read scriptures with my children when they were younger I would often say, “read the words that are there, and don’t read the words that are not there.” I ask the reader in reading this piece to do the same. I am attempting to deal with very contentious subject matter which can be easily misinterpreted. I have tried to be concise and accurate and still convey what I think is an important idea, that our collective failure in the United State to strive to realize our Constitutional ideals for all our citizens can have far reaching and profound negative effects on everyone.

The Scottsboro Boys

The case of the Scottsboro Boys is one the more famous examples of how racial prejudices has infected our nation’s judicial system. The case involved a group of young African American teenage males, ranging in age from 13 to 19, accused of raping two white women on a train in Alabama in 1931. I don’t think anyone can say with any degree of certainty exactly what happened on the train, but what can be said from a legal perspective is that the young men were denied the due process of law by virtue of the fact they were African American, and poor. Their cases were rushed to trial without adequate legal representation, before all white juries, all while lynch mobs were threatening to take matters into their own hands and hang the teenagers prior to trial.

After eight of the nine young men were found guilty and sentenced to death in Alabama state courts, the Communist Party USA  got involved in the case, and ultimately the International Labor Defense coordinated the appeal of the convictions and subsequent retrials. The International Labor Defense was the Communist International’s section of the International Red Aid, which was organized by the Communist International “to assist in the creation of organizations to render material and moral aid to all captives of capitalism in prison.” The Communist Party USA, Communist International, and International Red Aid where all dominated and largely funded by the Soviet Union, then ruled by Joseph Stalin.

In 1932 the United States Supreme Court overturned the convictions, determining that the Defendants, under the facts and circumstances of their particular cases, had a Constitutional right to be represented by an attorney at trial. On remand back to Alabama state courts, the Defendants were found guilty again, and again sentenced to death. In 1935, the United States Supreme Court again overturned those convictions, this time for excluding African Americans from the juries.

The end results after another round of trials in Alabama was some of the Defendants were again found guilty and the cases were dismissed against others. None of the Defendants were executed. All spent some years in prison.

The case of the Scottsboro Boys was a cause célèbre that the Communist Party USA and the Communist International effectively used for propaganda purposes and to bolster their image and reputations. The story was followed widely by the newspapers of the time and the Scottsboro Boys became a symbol of racial injustice in the United States.

The Holodomor

The Holodomor was the death by State-created famine of millions of peasant farmers in the Soviet Ukraine and took place around the same time as the trials of the Scottsboro Boys, from the fall of 1932 to the spring of 1933. The number of those who died is a matter of intense debate, but the estimates typically range from a low of 3 million to upwards of 20 million, although most historians estimate the total to be between 4 and 7 million.

The backdrop for this State-created famine was the desire of Stalin to crush the spirit of the Ukrainian people and have them acquiesce to the Soviet Union’s demands to collectivize their farms. The Ukrainian people had struggled for centuries to maintain autonomy from Russia, in earlier times from the Tsar, and then the Soviets. After World War I, various Ukrainian factions vied to form an independent Ukrainian state, but in 1922 Ukraine was again subsumed into the Soviet Union.

Ukrainian agriculture at the time was largely characterized by peasant farmers tilling their own small plots of land. The incredibly rich soil allowed these peasants to become the breadbasket of the Soviet Union. Following a Marxist economic ideology, Stalin wanted to gather these peasant farmers into large State owned collectives, what in modern times we may call factory farms. The peasants resisted, sometimes to the point of burning their own crops. Stalin, in conformity to his nickname of the Man of Steel, decided to essentially requisition all the grain from the peasant farmers after the fall harvest in 1932 and then not allow the peasants to travel outside Ukraine when their food inevitably ran out. As can could be expected, millions of Ukrainians starved to death the winter of 1932-1933, often whole villages perished.

The famine in Ukraine was largely ignored by the Western press. Walter Duranty, who had won a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for his reporting for the New York Times from the Soviet Union, was told by Stalin in 1933, ”You have done a good job in your reporting the U.S.S.R., though you are not a Marxist, because you try to tell the truth about our country . . . I might say that you bet on our horse to win when others thought it had no chance and I am sure you have not lost by it.” Even the United Press’s own correspondent in Moscow, Eugene Lyons, worked to cover up the famine at the time although in later years be became a harsh critic of Stalin and the Soviet Union

The persecution of the Ukrainian peasantry by the Soviet Union coincided in time with the rise of Adolf Hitler. In the 1930 German federal elections the National Socialists only received 18% of the vote. The Nazi’s vote share rose to 37% in July 1932, fell back to 33% in November, 1932, and rose again to 44% in March 0f 1933, after Hitler had become Chancellor. With that election all parties other than the National Socialists where declared illegal and the Nazi’s vote share not surprisingly shot up to 92% in the November 1933 German federal election. Perhaps not coincidentally, a few days after the German elections in November 1933 President Roosevelt ended 16 years of non-recognition and the United States recognized the Marxist Bolshevik Party and the Soviet Union.  


The failure of the United States to live up to the ideals enshrined in our Constitution, as evidenced by the treatment of the Scottsboro Boys, provided an opening for Stalin and his subordinates in the Communist International to provide cover for their own sins. The blind eye to the plight of our African American citizens was exploited for propaganda purposes by the Marxists, not only to our detriment but to the detriment of the world. Our failure to provide access to justice and due process to all our peoples became our nation’s Achilles heel that was exploited then, and is exploited any time a foreign dictatorship wants to hide their own sins. Such is the case even today, with George Floyd.