Scottsboro Trial Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

This lesson plan will help students summarize and analyze the sequence of events and their impact on future judicial rulings as they learn about the Scottsboro Trials.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Summarize key events from the Scottsboro Trials and their impact on the U.S. judicial system
  • Discuss the Scottsboro boys


60 minutes

Common Core Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.


Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.


  • American Communist Party
  • convictions
  • exonerate
  • fabricate
  • Jim Crow laws
  • jury
  • International Labor Defense
  • posse
  • Scopes Trial
  • Scottsboro Boys
  • Scottsboro Trials
  • Supreme Court
  • sentenced
  • vagrancy


  • newspaper articles about controversial trials
  • paper
  • pens
  • chart paper
  • markers
  • copies of lesson
  • access to technology


  • Prior to watching the video, introduce the vocabulary. Have students watch for the terms during the video, writing down their meaning.
  • Play the video The Scopes Trial and Scottsboro Trials: Summaries and Significance as a class, and discuss:
    • How are the Scottsboro Trials related to the Scopes Trials?
    • Why were the 'Scottsboro Boys' arrested?
    • What motivated Ruby Bates and Victoria Price to give false testimony?
    • What are some of the elements that made the initial trial unfair?
    • What organization intervened on behalf of the accused? Why?
    • What methods were used to sway public opinion regarding the trial?
    • What were the U.S. Supreme Court rulings regarding these trials?
    • How did the alleged victim's testimony change over the course of the trials?
    • In what ways was this trial instrumental in changing the U.S. judicial system?
    • What happened to the 'Scottsboro Boys'?
  • Ask if there are any questions, then give the students the lesson's printable worksheet to assess their understanding of the concept.
  • Check the answers as a class.

Create a Timeline of Events

Materials: chart paper, markers, copies of the lesson, access to technology

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