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In March 25, 1931, Andy Wright left his native Chattanooga on a Southern Railroad freight train headed for Alabama, accompanied by his younger brother Roy. The African American teenagers were pulled off the train and arrested at Paint Rock, Alabama, after allegedly participating in a rape of two young women who were white. Andy was 19 at the time, and had had enough schooling that he could read and write a bit.


In 1937 Andy Wright was sentenced to 99 years in jail for rape. He wrote a letter to the Scottsboro Defense Committee expressing concern that he and four of the other defendants had had their freedom traded for the four released that year. In Kilby Prison in Montgomery, Alabama, he was assaulted by both guards and prisoners, and spent time in the prison hospital. His continually poor health made it difficult for him to work in the prison industries and further antagonized his tormentors. Wright narrowly escaped an attack when Charley Weems took his shift at the prison mill and received knife wounds intended for Andy.


As bad as the physical punishment was, the psychic punishment may have been worse. By independent accounts, Wright was a good-natured prisoner, but he wrote: “A colored convict’s very best behavior is not good enough for these officials here. Every time they open their mouths it is [‘]you black bastard.[‘] When we think we are doing right we be cursed at and kick around and beat like dogs.”

Read more about Andy Wright at Scottsboro: An American Tragedy.


DERRICK COBEY (Andy Wright) created this role in The Scottsboro Boys at the Vineyard and Guthrie Theaters.  He was recently seen in The Tin Pan Alley Rag (Roundabout); G&S Canon (City Center). National tours include Rent and Forever Swing. Regional credits: Into the Woods, Little Shop of Horrors and Macbeth (Great Lakes Theater Festival/ Idaho Shakespeare Festival);  Abyssinia (Goodspeed), Jesus Christ Superstar (North Shore); Ragtime (Paper Mill Playhouse); Hair (Hangar Theater); Side Show (Cleveland Playhouse); The Buddy Holly Story (Westchester Broadway); Pacific Overtures (Arden Theatre); Oklahoma!, Brigadoon, Ragtime, Jesus Christ Superstar, Damn Yankees, Wizard of Oz and Footloose (Sacramento Music Circus);  A Little Night Music, Once on this Island (Connecticut Repertory); Smokey Joe’s Café (Actors Playhouse).


THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS begins performances October 7 and opens October 31 at the Lyceum Theatre (149 West 45th Street).



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