Eighty-two years after they were falsely accused of raping two white women, all of the "Scottsboro Boys" have been pardoned. Alabama's Board of Pardons and Paroles pardoned the last three today after a unanimous vote, the Montgomery Advertiser reports. Nine black teens were accused of the rapes in 1931; by 1937, Haywood Patterson, Charlie Weems, Andy Wright, and Clarence Norris had all been convicted of rape. The other five saw their charges dropped, and Norris was pardoned in 1976 because, the AP reports, he was the only one known to be alive at the time; Patterson, Weems, and Wright received full and unconditional pardons today.
Why now? Just last spring, the Alabama Legislature made posthumous pardons legal in convictions 80 years old or older, specifically so the Scottsboro Boys could be pardoned. It's not clear what happened to all nine men: Patterson died in 1952 and Wright is known to be buried in Chattanooga, but as for the rest, many kept a low profile after it was all over, or even changed their names. "With some of them, we really don’t know if they died with their right name, or a different name," says an expert. "They no longer wanted to be known." The case came to symbolize the deep racism in the South at that time, the Los Angeles Times notes, with elements including "a frame-up on the charges, a recanting by a key witness, conviction by an all-white jury, angry mobs, an attempted lynching," and poor legal representation for the teens. (Read more Scottsboro Boys stories.)