SCOTTSBORO, Ala. – The Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The museum serves to bring dignity to nine black teenagers wrongfully convicted of raping two white women while traveling through Jackson County on a train in 1931.
“They were innocent, put in jail until they were grown. They lost their childhood and they were on that train for one reason, to go to work in Memphis,” said Washington.
She said her personal experiences as a teen led her to eventually open the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center.
“At age 17 I read a book about the Scottsboro Boys. At age 18 my brother was killed in the same prison the Scottsboro Boys were housed in. That fueled my passion,” said founder Shelia Washington.
Washinton said her vision for the museum started with wanting to place a candle and a book on a table.
“Little did I know the vision was much bigger than that. I wanted to bring justice and equality and stop racism,” said Washington.
The museum historian said people travel from all over the United States and even other countries to visit the museum.
“We have had thousands of visitors from all over the world. Some people barely make it in the door before they start crying. We call it a place of healing and restoration,” said Washington.
She said each tear shed at the museum is meaningful.
“Because of the Jewish lawyer that represented the boys, we have a lot of Jewish people that come in and cry because they feel the Jewish were treated just like the blacks, and I cry along with them because these boys’ story is so compelling,” said Washington.
Now that their doors have been open for 10 years, it’s time that it gets a new look.
“We’re going to make it something that will be the launching point for the civil rights trail so that people who are coming to Alabama to look at the Civil Rights Trail will come to Scottsboro, Alabama first,” said museum historian Thomas Reidy.
The museum is open on the second and third Saturdays of the month and through booking appointments during the week. The museum’s renovations will be funded through community donations.