The American Historical Review,
Vol. 101, No. 1, February 1996, 304-305. Exactly six years later,
Murray had another, longer letter on Scottsboro in the same journal,
elsewhere on this site.
“If Goodman had been an ‘old-fashioned’ historian, in his introduction
he would have had to refute explicitly the feminist lie, so popular
during the Clarence Thomas hearings, that ‘women do not make up
Posted May 27, 2008
To the Editor:
review of James Goodman’s Stories of Scottsboro (AHR, 100 [October
1995]: 1322), Robert P. Ingalls writes, “The significance of Goodman’s
contribution transcends the Scottsboro case. His deliberate
‘experimentation in the writing of history’ is enormously successful in
creating a form that does ‘justice to the richness and irresistible
power of the past.’’’ I thoroughly disagree; the one thing Goodman
notably fails to accomplish is justice to the past, or to the present.
Bluntly, if present-day rape-shield laws had been in effect in Alabama
in the 1930s, not only would the Scottsboro boys have been executed, the
“shielded” testimony would have proved their guilt!
only through the Communist-led International Labor Defense (ILD) that
the boys’ lives were saved and the case appealed to the Supreme Court
twice for precedent-making decisions. Again, it was the ILD’s attorneys
and publicity campaign that exposed to the general public the intense
racism in the Alabama judicial system and that the semen found in the
two white women had come from their white boyfriends, with whom they had
journeyed from Chattanooga as hoboes on a freight train.
Furthermore, Judge James E. Horton knew the boys were innocent, for Dr.
Marvin Lynch told the judge in private what had occurred. The doctor
was called to examine the women who had each just been “raped” by six
young blacks, who had threatened the women at knife point and with a
gun. Dr. Lynch was shocked to find the women giggling. He asked them
directly, “Those boys didn’t rape you, did they?” The women laughed.
Goodman finds this crucial story so inconsequential that he fails to
mention the doctor’s first name and places the story out of
Goodman had been an “old-fashioned” historian, in his introduction he
would have had to refute explicitly the feminist lie, so popular during
the Clarence Thomas hearings, that “women do not make up stories.” With
an introduction, Goodman would have had to question if justice could
have been obtained at Scottsboro under feminist rape-shield laws.
Goodman would have had to note that the run-off primary in Alabama, far
from being the “racist” gimmick alleged by Jesse Jackson and the Justice
Department under both Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, had
originally been enacted to make it more difficult for members of the Ku
Klux Klan to win elections.
Goodman been an old-fashioned historian, he would have had to give more
credit to the Communists, who, with their international connections,
made the nation and the world aware of racial injustice in the South.
Thus, when Communists stoned American embassies and consulates in
Berlin and Dresden, demanding freedom for the Scottsboro boys, President
Herbert Hoover’s State Department had to inquire about the case. Before
Scottsboro, how many southern rape cases were discussed in the White
House? The Communists led Scottsboro protests from South Africa to
China, from Ghana to France. They even organized a Scottsboro-civil
rights march on Washington in 1933 (three decades before a much larger
Goodman, in attempting to appease feminists and other politically
correct elements, may reveal some stories, and some trivia, about
Scottsboro, but by juggling the chronology and evading crucial themes,
Goodman has lost many of the important lessons of Scottsboro.
concludes, “Other historians would do well to consider Goodman’s study
as a model for how to construct their own stories about the past.” I
view Goodman’s book as a model of evasion about the past to appease the
politically correct of the present-a model to avoid.
In reply, Ingalls offered one sentence that one might characterize as
snide, if not insulting.