SCOTTSBORO, Ala. (WHNT) - Alabama Governor Robert Bentley visited Scottsboro on Friday to sign historic legislation to correct one of the state's wrongs.
He signed Senate Bill 97, which establishes a framework for posthumous pardons in the case of the Scottsboro Boys. The governor also signed House Joint Resolution 20, which formally exonerates the Scottsboro Boys.
This comes 81 years after nine African-American men were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman.
Governor Bentley says this legislation will help make things right with the case that's lasted nearly a century.
"We cannot take back what happened. But we can make it right moving forward. That’s why I’m signing this legislation," Governor Bentley said. "It’s important to clear the names of the Scottsboro Boys. This is the result of a bipartisan, cooperative effort, and I appreciate everyone who worked together to make this legislation a reality."
The pardoning legislation for the Scottsboro Boys was sponsored by Senator Arthur Orr and Representative Laura Hall.
"We can’t go back in time and change this unfortunate event in Alabama’s history, but this legislation is a significant step toward recognizing and correcting this gross injustice," Senator Arthur Orr said. "It is never too late to right a wrong."
"While we cannot erase the dark days when the Scottsboro Boys incident occurred, what we have done is acknowledge our mistake," Representative Laura Hall said. "Hopefully, our great State of Alabama can be Alabama the Beautiful, where justice is dispensed equally and fairly without regard to race, sex, social class or religious belief."
The ceremony was at the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center.
"This is a great step in correcting an injustice that occurred more than 80 years ago," said Shelia Washington, the founder and director of the museum. "The case of the Scottsboro Boys has been widely studied for years, and the experts conclude that the Scottsboro Boys were wrongly accused and wrongly convicted. That’s why the pardons and exonerations are so important. Thank you to Governor Bentley and all the legislators who worked with us on accomplishing our goal."