Scottsboro Boys vs. Tom Robinson

Comparing the Scottsboro Trial to the Tom Robinson Trial

All About the Scottsboro Trial

On March 25, 1931, groups of white and black men and two white women were riding the train to a city in Alabama. At one point, the two groups, excluding the women, started fighting. Most of the white men were thrown off the train. When the train arrived to the designated city, all riding were arrested. The white women remained under arrest for several days, pending charges of possible violation of the Mann Act. The Mann Act was a law against taking a minor across state lines for immoral purposes, like prostitution. Victoria Price, one of the women, was a known prostitute, and she was on board with Ruby Bates, a minor. The police were given an anonymous tip that the two women were involved in a criminal act. The police then asked the two women if the black men on board did anything to them. In order to avoid being charged, Price said that they were. After a trial, the all-white jury convicted the nine (excluding the youngest- 12 years old) boys to be sentenced to death.

All About the Tom Robinson Trial

Plaintiff's Argument:

On November 21, 1935, Mayella Ewell was on her porch. Tom Robinson was walking by and Mayella needed a favor so she asked Tom to help her. Her favor was for him to chop up a chiffarobe for her, as she was tired. She had offered him a nickel, and as she was getting one from inside, Tom was behind her. According to Mayella, Tom jumped onto her and beat her up and raped her. During this time, Mayella was supposedly screaming, so her father, Bob Ewell, ran to see what was going on. He looked into the window and saw Tom raping Mayella. He then preceded to help Mayella up and run to get Heck Tate, the sheriff. Mayella was beaten around the head, had bruises around her arms and neck, and her right eye was blackened. During the trial, it was discovered that Bob Ewell is left-handed and Tom Robinson is crippled- his left arm is missing. This is important because it would take somebody left-handed to punch and blacken Mayella's right eye.

Defendant's Argument:

The defendant, Tom Robinson, has pleaded not guilty. In fact, he is saying that he was falsely accused. On November 21, 1935, Tom was not asked by Mayella to chop up a chiffarobe. In fact, that had happened over a year before. That day, Mayella asked Tom to come inside for a favor. It was a high job, so once he was on the chair, Mayella grabbed him by the legs. Mayella hugged Tom around the waist, kissed the side of his face and said she had "never kissed a grown man before, and she might as well kiss a nigger." Then, she continued to say that what her father does to her doesn't count. In order to escape, Tom had to push Mayella, though he meant no harm. By doing this, he tried to resist Mayella's advances.

In the end, the jury convicted Tom Robinson, even though it took them a long time for the jury to come to a decision. Tom then lost hope while in prison and tried to escape the jail. He was then killed by the guards after given a few warnings. They killed him with 17 bullets in his chest.

Comparison of The Tom Robinson Trial and The Scottsboro Boys Trial

Tom Robinson Trial

  • One black man
  • Accused by the victim's father
  • Crime happened in victim's house
  • One white woman
  • Defendant is crippled


  • Black men are the defendants
  • Charges were rape
  • The accusers/victims were white women
  • Take place in the 1930s

Scottsboro Boys Trial

  • Many black men
  • Two white women
  • Accused by one of the white women
  • Crime happened in a train
  • One of the defendants is only 12 years old