Proposed Bill Would Give $100,000 to Scottsboro Boys Museum And Cultural Center

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SCOTTSBORO, Ala. (WHNT) -- A bill is working its way through the state legislature that would appropriate thousands of dollars of funds for the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center.

Around this time of year in 1931 nine African-American boys went past a church in Scottsboro on their way to the courthouse for a trial that would make history. All nine were wrongly accused of raping two women.

Decades later those nine boys are known as the Scottsboro Boys, and their story is what that same church is now designated to share.

Thousands of visitors a year come to the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center, the only museum dedicated to the history of the nine boys in Scottsboro.

Usually they're greeted by a woman named Shelia Washington.

Washington worked for 17 years to found the museum. "The county and city don't give us any funding," Washington says, "We keep these doors open by people who send us donations."

The state legislature has given the museum funding in the past. With House Bill 320, Washington is hoping the legislature will be able to help again. "It's 100 thousand dollars to start off with for operational and maintaining the museum, to keep the doors open," Washington says.

House Bill 320 has more than 20 representatives listed. It would appropriate 100 thousand dollars out of the general fund for the museum. That money would allow Washington to hire more employees and stay open more often. Mainly though, it would help keep the doors open and share the story. "I hadn't talked to anyone about it, and they told me they wanted to do this because first of all, the Scottsboro Boys never received any compensation, and they were falsely accused of raping," Washington says.

To Washington, every day is a prayer the bill becomes a reality, because to her it's more than just money. It's a chance to share with thousands of visitors a story of wrongful accusations, multiple trials, and finally, exoneration.

It's money that will help continue their story. "To keep the history of the Scottsboro Boys alive," Washington says.

The Alabama Legislature unanimously exonerated the nine boys last year.