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Charles Weems was a native of Chattanooga, Tennessee.  His mother died in 1915 when he was only four.  Six of his seven siblings died soon afterwards.  Weems finished the fifth grade and then took a job as a delivery boy at Watson’s Drug Store in Atlanta. 

When his father fell ill, Weems was sent to live with his aunt Gussie McElroy in Riverdale, Georgia.  He was on his way home to Tennessee when he was pulled from the Southern Railroad and charged with rape.  Weems was the oldest of the Scottsboro Boys.  

Prison life was difficult for Weems.  He complained about being “half-fed.”  He said he spent “a lot of time thinking about the ladies out in the world and I’m shut in here.” 

In 1934, he was beaten and tear-gassed for reading Communist literature that had been sent to him.  The gassing caused permanent eye injuries.  In 1937, Weems contracted tuberculosis.  In 1938, he was stabbed by a prison guard who had mistaken him for his intended target, Andy Wright.  Weems kept a clean prison record and was paroled in 1943.  Upon his release, he wrote, “Please tell all the young mens to try hard and not to go to prison.” 

After his release in 1943, Weems moved back to Atlanta where he married and took a job in a laundry.

Read more about Charles Weems at Scottsboro: An American Tragedy


CHRISTIAN DANTE WHITE created this role in The Scottsboro Boys at the Vineyard and Guthrie Theaters.  Praise be to God! Favorite roles: The Wiz starring Ashanti (Scarecrow, City Center Summer Stars), Jersey Boys (Barry Belson, Vegas), Hairspray (Seaweed J. Stubbs, Tour and The Muny). Reading: The Scottsboro Boys. 


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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