Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




Collectively, the charges and convictions of nine black youths in Scottsboro in 1931 became a symbol of corruption and oppression for those interested in reshaping America's political and legal landscapes. Scottsboro instigated a decade of trials and retrials, two landmark United States Supreme Court opinions, countless dramatic interpretations, and various artistic responses. In particular, Scottsboro, Limited by Langston Hughes and They Shall Not Die by John Wexley were cultural revisions of the trials in 1931 and 1933, respectively. While both works supported the defendants, they were distinguished by their form, production and ultimate statement about the meaning of Scottsboro. These dramatic reproductions help outline a negotiation between pop-culture and legal culture in the early years of the Great Depression. Ironically, as the legal community showed signs of incorporating social concerns within the parameters of legal reasoning, the cultural productions of Scottsboro grew less radical and more in line with "mainstream America."