Nine black boys are arrested in Scottsboro, Alabama and are charged with raping a white woman on a train. Over the course of three trials, they are found guilty and sentenced to death. The Supreme Court reverses the death sentences in Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45 (1932), on the grounds that the defendants were denied adequate counsel. However, the defendants are retried over the course of over 20 years, and the "Scottsboro Boys" become a cause celebre among Northern liberals as symbols of the South's backwardness, its racism, and the unfairness of its criminal justice system.