Reidy spoke of the “few great men who stood up,” the legal team and some Scottsboro natives who tried to defeat the inhumanity of the Jim Crow system in their own ways. A powerful moment was when the grandson of a Scottsboro sheriff Matthew Wann who held back a lynch mob and was subsequently murdered for his antiracism. Wann’s grandson stood up: testament to the fact that the horrors of ninety years before is not so very long ago, and the past is still very much present.
Reidy also related how the Scottsboro case stirred the nation, and how many artists and intellectuals supported the falsely accused young men. In memory of this, the museum will feature the artwork of young African-American artists in rotating art exhibits. The story of the Scottsboro Boys has been featured in film and an award-winning musical.
Orr likened attending the reopening to coming to church on Communion Sunday and “Confessing our sins…in a way what we’re dedicating today is somewhat of a confession of what happened many, many years ago—nobody in this room was involved, but it was man’s inhumanity to man.” Orr spoke of the historical importance of the museum and of being able to see and touch history, and how hopefully future visitors would “Realize tomorrow is another day and it’s up to all of us here today to do better and to never let it happen again.”
After Senator Orr’s remarks the crowd made its way outside into the sunshine for the ribbon cutting. Scottsboro mayor Jim McCamy made a few remarks, including thanking some of the relatives and descendants of the Scottsboro Boys and their legal team for attending the event, and after pictures were taken with the Scottsboro Boys Museum board the museum was officially reopened to a round of applause.
For Alabama Heritage this reopening was a moment of coming full circle, as AH staff was present for the signing of the posthumous exoneration of three of the Scottsboro Boys in 2013, eighty years after the young men were falsely accused. AH subsequently published an article about the event, and the AH team has been eagerly awaiting the reopening, despite Washington’s untimely passing. It was a brief event but powerful, and do your best to visit the Scottsboro Boys Museum when you can, for it truly brings history to life.