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Step Right Up and Meet The Scottsboro Boys



Clarence Norris was the second of eleven children born to Georgia sharecroppers.  Norris attended school only to the second grade.  At the age of seven, he was put to work in the cotton fields.  After his father died, Norris took a job at the local Goodyear plant, working up to sixteen hours a day.  But the job ended.  And Norris decided to hit the railroad tracks and look for work.

Norris was 19 when he was pulled from a boxcar outside of Paint Rock, Alabama and falsely charged with rape.  Like the rest of the Scottsboro Boys, Norris spent much of his time on death row.  He was haunted by the executions he could hear from his cell and began dreaming of his own death.

Norris was sentenced to death three times and spent fifteen years in prison. He wrote, “without hope, a man in prison is nothing.”

Norris was paroled in 1944 and fled north, violating his parole conditions.  Norris returned to Alabama and spent another two years in prison.  In 1946, he was paroled for a second time.  Again, he went to New York, violating his parole, and assumed his brother’s identity.

For the next thirty years, Norris lived as a fugitive, working a series of different jobs – shoveling coal, washing dishes, working as a warehouseman.  Steady employment did not come easy.

In the early 70’s, Norris was determined to clear his name and live his life as a free man.  With the help of the NAACP, Norris was finally given a full pardon from Alabama Governor George Wallace.  On October 25, 1976, Clarence Norris, the last of the nine Scottsboro defendants, was officially declared “not guilty.”

Norris said about this pardon:  “The lesson to black people, to my children, to everybody, is that you should always fight for your rights, even if it costs you your life.  Stand up for your rights, even if it kills you. That’s all life consists of.”

Norris went on to write his own autobiography, The Man from Scottsboro. He wrote, “I’m just glad to be free.  They had said that I was a nobody, a dog, but I stood up and I said the truth.  Somebody’s got to do these things in life.”

Read more about Clarence Norris at Scottsboro: An American Tragedy.

RODNEY HICKS created this role in The Scottsboro Boys at the Vineyard and Guthrie Theaters.  Broadway: Rent (Benny, Closing Cast), Jesus Christ Superstar (Peter), Rent (Original Cast). Off-Broadway: Jacques Brel is Alive and Well … (2006 Cast Recording), From My Hometown (Audelco Award Nomination), Rent (Obie Award), Lotto (Audelco Award). Regional: White Noise (Tyler, World Premiere), Miss Saigon (John, Pioneer Theatre), Noah’s Great Rainbow (Murigande, Toronto), King Lear (Edmund, Denver Center), Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Andre, Maltz Jupiter), The 60’s Project (Roy, World Premiere), Two Gentlemen of Verona (Valentine, Centre Stage), Lobby Hero (William, Geva), Golden Boy (Joe, Long Wharf). Film: Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway, Bad Decisions, Django. TV: “Hope & Faith”, “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”, “Student Affairs”, “NYPD Blue”.

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



on Twitter: @ScottsboroBoys

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