Rhyon Brown
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Life After 'Compton': Rhyon Brown Details The Next Chapter In Expanding Her Brand 

Rhyon Brown discusses how she will keep the momentum going after starring in Lifetime's 'Surviving Compton.' 

Rhyon Nicole Brown is no stranger to the Hollywood industry. The multi-talented actress, singer-songwriter, and screenwriter has survived 20 years of making it with an extensive resume of recurring roles on shows like Lincoln Heights and That's So Raven. But as of late, her name has made headlines and flooded newsfeeds for a new accomplishment: Surviving Compton.

The actress recently starred in the Lifetime TV movie, Surviving Compton, a biopic about R&B singer and the original First Lady of Death Row Records, Michel'le. The biopic served as the untold side of Dr. Dre and  Ice Cube's 2015 feature film, Straight Outta Compton, and as the film's lead, Rhyon was tasked with mastering Michel'le's distinctly high-pitched voice and reenacting the singer's abusive relationships with Dr. Dre and Suge Knight. And according to Twitter and the thousands of fans who tuned into the network on Oct. 15, Rhyon earned five stars for her spot-on portrayal.

The buzz surrounding her performance has dimmed since the movie aired, but just as Michel'le learned only after she parted ways from both of her toxic relationships, there is definitely life after Compton. Now, Rhyon is embarking on a new, rather ambitious journey with her music, releasing an album entitled Pretty Girl along with a short film. And this time, instead of telling someone else's story, Rhyon is telling her own. "As an actor, I feel like I’m the canvas, and I am the way of getting some one’s message out to the world," Rhyon says over the phone. "As a musician and a singer-songwriter, it’s now my story that’s being told from my perspective.

VIBE spoke with the 24-year-old about tackling Michel'le's story as well as her plans for her career moving forward.

VIBE: Your portrayal of Michel’le’s abusive relationships came across as authentic and genuine. It’s Domestic Abuse Awareness Month, and your performance was probably very helpful for women in similar situations. But how was it impactful for you?
It was hard because it’s one thing to hear about domestic violence and see people’s interviews and talk about it, but it’s another thing to actually have to embody it. There were certain scenes where after the scene was over, I was still crying, just because it hit me. This is not only Michel’le’s reality, but it’s the reality of a lot of women out there. That is something they have to go through everyday. And to look at Michel’le and say wow, there’s this beautiful person that went through all of this and doesn’t have malice in her heart, it’s really inspirational. My main goal for this film was to be so raw with the performance that other women who go through it could relate and know that they didn’t have to be in that abusive situation and that it didn’t have to define their entire life.

You’ve probably seen the controversy surrounding the film. Did you have any reservations about joining the cast?
My only reservations came with how I was going to portray the role. I had to go to lengths that  I’ve never had to go before. Some of the scenes, I was completely nude on set, so that was new for me. But as far as the things that Dr. Dre had to say about the movie, not so much. They had their opportunity to tell their story in Straight Outta Compton. So I think it’s only right that Michel’le has her opportunity to tell her story. I think everybody should get to tell their story, and I was just here to help Michel’le tell hers.

Have you seen the reactions to your performance and the movie in general?
Yeah I have. I’m so grateful to how people received it so well. And like I said, with this film, I had to go lengths that I never had to go in my acting career before. And I’ve been doing this for 20 years now, so this was a big step for me. I’m honored there are so many people out there that appreciate my craft because with my craft, all I want to do is inspire people. And to know that’s what happened, I’m over the moon still.

You mentioned that you had to go to new lengths in this film. How else do you think you’ve matured in you career from your early days until now?
I feel like I have a better understanding of the industry as a whole now. Acting has always been a passion of mine and something I fell in love with when I was four years old. But now, it’s not just a love of mine; it’s something I’m also a student of. I was on a show called Lincoln Heights for four years, and that’s really where I grew up just because I was around the same people for four years. It allowed me to build relationships with different directors, the executive producers [and] other actors I was able to take on as mentors. There were writers that let me sit in on their writing rooms. At that point, I realized I didn’t only want to be in front of the camera, but I also wanted to be behind. So Lincoln Heights got cancelled the year before it was time for me to go to college. I went to USC film school because I knew I wanted to be behind the camera. So I studied directing, producing, and writing. Being able to dissect a film and actors’ work, I feel like as an actress, I can communicate better with the people that I’m working with on set and with my audience because I know what touches people in different ways. I know my way around a camera now, and I think that’s so important when you’re in this industry. When you have a greater understanding for everybody’s job, it makes you be able to rise to a different level.

You’re also involved in music. Would you say that you’re an actress before a singer, or vice versa?
I don’t know if I’d say one before the other. Acting is what I’ve been doing for the longest, but I think that my talent in acting has definitely made me a stronger singer because when I sing, it’s not just the words. It’s more than the perfect note; it’s the perfect emotion. People have asked me which I prefer, but they both service two completely different things for me. As an actor, I feel like I’m the canvas and I am the way of getting some one’s message out to the world and it’s my job to get people to empathize with other people. As a musician and a singer-songwriter, it’s now my story that’s being told from my perspective.

So the creative processes for acting and singing are probably different then, right?
They are a little different, but they’re very similar. My art is my baby, so they’re very personal. I prepare them in very personal ways. I have to peel back the layers of what it is I’m going through. When I’m playing a different character, like with Michel’le for instance, I didn’t want to take it from a third party point of view. I didn’t want to judge her in a negative way, nor did I want to feel sorry for her. I still prepare in a very personal way, though. I had to find as many similarities between Michel’le and I to play the role. Even though I’ve never been through anything like domestic violence, I found a lot of similarities there. That’s really what I do with my music; I try to find as many similarities between me and my audience. So when they hear my music, my goal is for them to feel like, ‘man, I’m not the only person that goes through this,’ or, ‘I love that song because I’ve had that experience.’ My album in particular—I took a break from acting for four years when I went to college—and [my album] kind of fills in what that period of growth as a person was like when I was in college. Regardless of if people go to college or not, everybody in their lifetime has that period of time where they do a lot of growing and figuring out who they are. That may happen when you’re 15, it may happen when you’re 18 or it may happen when you’re 50, but I think that everyone will be able to relate.

Speaking of an album, is that what's next for you in terms of focus?
It is. I have a single called “California.” It’s coming out along with a video on [Oct] 28th. I studied film and television production, so my visuals are really important to me. Then my album comes out at the top of the year and a short film that goes along with [that]. The album is titled Pretty Girl, and I’m trying to pull back the layers. The theme of it would definitely be personal growth and development. You can’t judge a book by a cover. Throughout my life, everybody thinks that she’s had it easy. She’s been acting and singing her whole life, but people don’t know the different sacrifices and inner turmoils I’ve had to deal with. So with the album, it’s my way of connecting to people in general, but a lot of women who have gone through those type of things. I would say as far as sound is concerned, it is somewhere between R&B and pop. But I study a lot of soul singers, so there’s a really soulful aspect to it.

What do you want people to take a way from this piece of work?
I want people to understand that they, for one, have a voice, however that may be. Whether it’s through communication or whatever business they jump into, they [have to] find their voice. And if they don’t find that voice, then they’re missing their purpose in life. Also [for people] to find your purpose because that’s where you will find your true happiness.

So the idea of doing an album along with a short film is very current and interesting, but super ambitious, especially for a newer artist. How do you think a film will heighten the experience for this album?
For me, in my career, I want to take what being an entertainer means back to the days of Frank Sinatra, Dean Crosby and Ginger Rogers, where being an entertainer meant you acted and all of those things. That was such an important element for me. So it was like, what is it I can do to make people see me as that well-rounded entertainer all in one? And because I had gone to film school, I decided that I would write a film that allowed people to see me in all those respects. Like I said, it chronicles my experience throughout college, so there’s a lot of different emotions. There’s parties, there’s great times. There’s heartbreak, dealing with personal insecurities, and finding where it is I want to take my life. It was a challenge for me because it was like how can I take all these songs and make it into not only a story, but connect it.  I want people to see I studied my craft and see I truly am an entertainer.

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Meet Ebenezer, The Crooner Poised To Restore Soul Into Modern R&B

Ebenezer is a man of few words but the purveyor of a million feels throughout his music. Before the novel coronavirus left the singer-songwriter isolated in Los Angeles, the London-born artist was at the VIBE office in New York a few moons ago playing his latest project, Bad Romantic 2.

A few laughs fill the room but what really takes over is the boptastic tune "3 am in London." With a sample from Kandi Burruss's 2000 release "Don't Think I'm Not," we get a look into his creative process. After revealing his origin story in 2018 with 53 Sundays, Ebenezer returned with the Bad Romantic series. It's a title bestowed to him by the many women he's dated. As a songwriter, engineer, producer, and composer for himself a slew of other artists like Jeremih, Ty Dolla $ign, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, Stefflon Don, K-Pop faves SuperM and Craig David, love seemed to slip through the cracks. 

"I always try to make time," the crooner insists. He might not get love right all the time, but his determination to enrich modern R&B is a sword he's willing to fall on. While sharing stories behind cuts from Bad Romantic 2, a grin comes across his face as every tale is connected to love lost.

"It wasn't like there wasn't any lack of effort. It's just the way my schedule worked," he said about the making of "Flexible," a track bound to lead a quiet storm playlist. "I remember working so hard at the time that I was sleeping in the studio. I didn't have any money to go home [to London] so I had to work until something gave. I would mention how difficult it was but maybe she didn't understand the hustle or the grind at the time."

His hard work led to his latest single, "Flaws And All." The track speaks of his efforts to make love work no matter what, a notion anyone can relate to. As we continue to talk about love, one thing is for certain–Ebenezer is in love with creating. His eyes light up while breaking down each track and his shoulders ease up when he speaks about his versatility. In addition to the world hearing Bad Romantic 2, he's used social distancing to produce songs via his "Quarantine Studio Sessions."

 

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A post shared by Ebenezer (@ebenezersworld) on Mar 27, 2020 at 10:56am PDT

Below, get to know a little more about the elusive artist, the making of Bad Romantic 2 and some of his biggest inspirations.

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VIBE: With you producing at a young age, did you have support from your family?

Ebenezer: I'm a London boy but my parents are originally from Nigeria. They were on the run from immigration at one point but after things calmed down there was a big focus on education. They were like, "No you, can't. Education first." There would be big arguments and fights but eventually, I chose music. Or maybe it chose me? I started working and producing while on the phone with artists and things came together.

But I owe everything to my mum because she is the biggest cheerleader I've ever had. This woman had three kids and did everything to get by. She held it down. I had cousins who called immigration on us and they're supposed to be family–immigration comes kicking open the door and raiding the house. So I believe that the blessings I'm getting now are from God and our prayers.

What do you enjoy the most: producing/engineering or writing? 

I don't know if I can choose. I just use different parts of my brain for producing and writing. It is fun to split them up and bring them together at times.

What's your voice in R&B today? 

From childhood to the present, I've been in piece of s**t relationships and my songs reflect that. It's not be being vindictive to my exes. I take full responsibility for the things I've done and I try to be honest as I can in my music. The worst thing I could do is be one-sided.

There's that aspect of accountability missing in R&B these days so I get it. How is creating R&B-pop music for K-Pop artists? You worked with SuperM recently and it seems like they really enjoy the era of 2000s R&B. 

It's easier because they let you do whatever you want. You want a variety of harmonies because there's a lot of people in one group. But I like creating for K-Pop artists because you're able to let every individual stand out and have their own moment. It's dope they're adopting that sound.

Who are some of your inspirations? 

Kanye West for sure. My brother was a big hip hop head so I grew up on Rakim, Big L, Big Pun, Tupac, Biggie, Jay Z, Wu-Tang, but my decade has the Drakes and the Kanyes, so they were my biggest inspirations. College Dropout was the album that had me say, "I'm doing this music thing, I don't care."

My sister is a big R&B fan. She played a lot of Jagged Edge, Jodeci, stuff like that. So I was lucky to have the hip hop side and the R&B side presented to me all at once.

In addition to love and relationships, what else drives your creative process? 

It comes in stages for me. I like to make projects with a theme. For example, 53 Sundays was a project about growing up in London as an immigrant and the adversity we experienced racism and gang violence. It's how I overcame it and how my family dealt with it.

There's a lot of self-love in those songs because nothing is free, especially coming from having nothing. You have the Bad Romantic projects that are pretty self-explanatory in the title [Laughs]. I'm going to make it all tell a story so when you look back at the projects, it's a timeline and you'll see who I am.

What makes a "Bad Romantic and a "Good Romantic?" 

My exes are bad romantics. [Laughs]

So it's their fault? 

Nah, my exes would say there are some things that I'm good at and some things I'm terrible at. There are different love languages and what someone may require, I might not speak it. I like to provide gifts because growing up with nothing, you never want to see anyone without.

But I struggle with time because I'm always working and they had it. I have this thing called "The Okay Attitude." You can write me a novel in a text and I'll say, okay. Life expectancy for us is low as it is and we spend most of our time arguing about trivial things so if that's how you feel, that's how you feel.

And a "Good Romantic?"

Being attentive, caring, not being so selfish. I don't know, everyone is different. Some people require a lot. They say, "Shower me with gifts." But others say, "I just want your time, whenever you can afford it."

Unfortunately, I can't afford it.

What do you want listeners to get from your music?

That I'm just a bad romantic that's trying to better himself.

Stream Bad Romantic 2 here.

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Pony Boy

Slim Thug On His Coronavirus Diagnosis, Holistic Remedies And New Album, 'Thug Life'

Slim Thug, born Stayve Thomas, is a relatively healthy being. His daily regimen includes three-mile runs and keeping his diet in tip-top shape. Since he was 27, the rapper has battled high blood pressure and switched up his lifestyle for the better. Thirteen years later, the Houston native is hip to holistic methods like oregano oil to lower cholesterol levels, spirulina to reduce blood pressure and absorbing good vibes only.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has reported 1,303 people in the state have tested positive for novel coronavirus, one being Thug. The rapper and businessman was slighted after learning of his positive diagnosis on Tuesday (March 24).

Thug fell ill with a headache and a slight fever after running errands last week. While his symptoms were mild, his doctor provided him with a 24-hour test that confirmed it all. "Some people think I'm making it up," he tells VIBE over the phone Thursday (March 26). "Some people think I'm working for somebody, it's crazy."

As conspiracy theories permeate through social media, the 39-year-old is focused on keeping fans informed about the virus. His social distancing wasn't the best as he got a haircut a week before he was diagnosed, which is why he's firm on it today. "It's real and people should take it seriously," he said. "Especially for young people. You could pass it on, it could be deadly to somebody you love. You have to be a human and say, 'I have to protect others by not being reckless.'"

This hasn't changed Thug's plans to release his forthcoming album, Thug Life, Friday (March 27).  The veteran rapper who dropped classics like, "I Ain't Heard of That" and guest verses on Mike Jones' "Still Tippin," and Beyonce's "Check on It" wants his new music to be a safe haven for the times.

Released last week, his single, "This World" highlights today's ups and downs, with a telling sample from the late Charles Bradley.

The silver lining continues to glisten for the rapper. After sharing his diagnosis with fans, many began sharing black-owned businesses that specialize in holistic medicine. They include Soul Food Vegan and natural herbs from Jinka Premium.

In our conversation below, Slim Thug highlights the importance of social distancing, why rappers should stay connected to their fans and how the late Tupac Shakur inspired his new album, Thug Life.

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Just found out I got Corona virus

A post shared by Slim Thug (@slimthug) on Mar 24, 2020 at 10:14am PDT

VIBE: How have you been coping with this? Take me back to your initial thoughts when you found out all of this was happening.

Slim Thug: I was definitely surprised because I was trying to be precautious way earlier than a lot of people. I started to feel a headache and a fever and I've never had those symptoms so I thought, 'Man this Corona time, it's got to be something.' But at the end of the day, I haven't felt severe sickness or nothing.

I have high blood pressure, I already do this. I run three miles at the park and go to the gym every day, so I'm pretty healthy. You know, I never felt like I wouldn't be able to fight this off, I never really felt really sick or crazy sick, just kind of felt like a sinus infection.

With you being a healthy person, what has this told you about the virus?

It's serious and it can be deadly, but at the end of the day, if you're young and healthy and don't have any other underlying conditions, then you should be able to fight it off. My doctor shared how the only thing you can do is stay home and let it run its course. He said to drink a high volume of fluids like vitamin c to keep your immune system up.

Have you ever been interested in holistic practices?

I believe in medicine, I'm not gonna lie if I need a Z-Pack, I'm gonna get it (Laughs). But there's a lot of people around me who shared some things. I'm on a lot of herbs right now. They done gave me all types of kits and stuff that I posted on Instagram. I've been on oregano oil, black seed oil, and it's working. I'm trying everything from boiling orange peels to elderberry. I'm trying to stay on it, I feel good. I go outside and post up in the sun and try to drink hot tea during the day.

Hip-hop artists haven't said too much about the virus, but some are engaging more with fans on social media. What else do you think your peers can do with their influence during these times?  

If you're a rapper, you should be taking advantage of this time and giving content out to the world as much as possible. I've seen so many different artists be creative. Look at DJ D-Nice. About a year ago, I started spinning. I'm not really a DJ, I'm just having fun. But for D-Nice to have 150,000 people on his Live? You would never go to a club and DJ for that many people or never "see" Oprah and all of them. It's a whole new wave, a whole new world we're stepping into. You're reaching over 150,000 people and this is elite people at the same time.

It's inspired all the real DJs to get on. I'm seeing DJs from Houston like Mr. Rodgers spin for 12 hours straight and he had the whole city in his Live. We were all just in the comments, it's crazy, but it's amazing though because you have thousands there and you won't see that many people in a real club.

 

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After Hours Vibes are DIFFERENT in #ClubCorona. That 7am hour had me hella delirious and in rare form. Went in the bag and dropped that OutKast Spottie and brought the LIVE band out during my LIVE set. From 9p-2PM (17hrs nonstop) we went crazy. Long story short, don’t miss 2nite!! - s/o @honeyboneshawty for capturing this moment!

A post shared by DJ Mr Rogers (@djmrrogers) on Mar 25, 2020 at 1:11pm PDT

It's a new experience, so you have to be creative with it. My album Thug Life is out today [March 27th], but I've hosted a live listening on my Instagram. It was inspired by [2]Pac. Back in the day, he had a project called Thug Life and with Slim Thug being my name, I just had to use it.

I even saw Swae Lee [of rap duo Rae Sremmurd] do a whole concert. You just got to be engaged with your people and they will appreciate that because everyone is sitting at home bored with nothing to do. If they're busy now, they will have time to tune in later. All artists should be taking advantage of this moment, stay at home and give the people as much content as they can watch because they all want to see something right now.

What do you think it is about music that has people wanting it more than ever?

Music is just therapy to your body and soul. Whenever I'm stressed out, I got a playlist for that. I got a playlist for anything and any mood I need to be in. Music is very important because of a lot of Black people/minorities, don't go to therapy, they don't have a lot of access to resources that can help ease stress.

A lot of the times, a good song can do that for you, it can make you feel good. All of that. So it's very important. I feel like my content is good for these times. I have a song called "This World" that's about real-life stuff.  I got a record with [veteran Houston rapper] Z-Ro I'm finna drop that's like a gospel song to me. When I hear it, it just takes me there and I think people are going to feel the same.

Lastly, you mentioned you're getting into DJing. If you were to throw a Quarantine Party, what are the Top 5 records you have to play no matter what?

At my Quarantine Party, it's going to be the real playing. I've done a few mixes for the last ten days. I would say the go-to records are 90s R&B. It's just therapeutic feel-good music.

Hearing people singing really calms you down. Jodeci, Babyface, all of it. Guy, Keith Sweat. If you want to turn up and take it what's good now, Travis Scott is perfect to get lit to.

For those who want the real throwback rap, you might want to hear some Tupac. There's something for everybody, whatever you like, there's a playlist that will put you in a great mood and I think everyone should tap into that for real, it's real therapy.

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The History Of The Scottsboro Boys

Decades before the Exonerated Five became one of the biggest-known examples of Black and brown youth being targeted and falsely convicted, there were the Scottsboro Boys. The group of nine black teenagers, ranging from ages 13 to 19, were wrongly convicted of raping two white women on a freight train in 1931.

Haywood Patterson, Clarence Norris, Charlie Weems, brothers Andrew and Leroy "Roy" Wright, Olin Montgomery (who was nearly blind), Eugene Williams, Ozie Powell, and Willie Roberson (who suffered from severe syphilis and could barely walk) were arrested on rape charges, which began a years-long battle for freedom. Four of the nine teens knew each other prior to being falsely accused and convicted.

On March 25, 1931, the teens boarded the Southern Railway freight train in hopes of finding jobs, along with other Black and white passengers. As the train made its way through Alabama, a fight broke out after a group of white passengers attempted to attack a group of Black passengers. Patterson was one of the passengers targeted which triggered a melee, that led to the white passengers getting kicked off the train in Skottsboro, Ala.

The angry posse headed to a nearby sheriff where they claimed that they had been attacked by Black passengers. Police intern arrested every Black passenger on the train for assault. Meanwhile, two white women on the train, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates, told police that they had been raped by the Black teens. It’s suspected that the women lied out of fear of being arrested for prostitution. A doctor later examined the women and determined that they were not raped.

Nonetheless, police arrested the teen, who were dubbed the Scottsboro Boys. Price and Bates went to the Scottsboro Jail and identified the teens as their attackers. In the age of Jim Crow and overt racism permeating through the South, the Scottsoboro Boys never stood a chance. White lynch mobs marched to the jail where they were being held and demanded that the boys be released into their custody so that they could kill them. As a result, the National Guard was called in to escort the Scottsboro Boys from jail to court. The boys were not allowed to consult with an attorney and were instead appointed two lawyers, one of whom was 69-year-old Milo Moody, who hadn’t tried a murder case in years. A second lawyer assigned to the case was a real estate attorney.

The first round of trials took place over the course of one day in a standing-room only court room with all-white, all-male jurors. Black jurors had been systematically blocked from the jury pools through disenfranchisement that also stripped many Blacks of the right to vote.

Patterson was tried separately, followed by Norris and Weems. The defense offered no closing arguments, but prosecutors closed by urging jurors to sentence the boys to death. Within two hours of deliberation, the jury returned a guilty verdict against Norris and Weems, amid cheers and applause in the court room. Patterson’s trial began as jurors were deliberating the case against Norris and Weems. Despite having no evidence and conflicting stories from Price and Bates, Patterson was convicted and sentenced to the electric chair. Powell, Roberson, Williams, Montgomery and Andy Wright’s trial began minutes after Patterson’s trial ended. The jury quickly convicted them and sentenced them to death.

Prosecutors decided that 13-year-old Roy Wright was too young for the death penalty. Within hours, the case was declared a mistrial as jurors were deadlocked on sentencing for Roy Wright, although they all agreed that he was guilty, despite him being innocent.

The other eight Scottsboro Boys were sentenced to death, but the Alabama Supreme Court issued a last-minute indefinite stay of execution. The case caught the attention of the International Labor Defense, and the NAACP.

On March 24, 1932, the Alabama Supreme Court upheld the convictions against seven of the Scottsboro Boys, and granted Williams a new trial. The case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court later that year. In a landmark decision, the high court ruled that the boys had been denied the right to a fair trial under the 14th Amendment, and sent the cases back to the lower court.

The Scottsboro Boys were tried again, this time in Decatur, Ala., which was roughly 50 miles from Scottsboro, but still in Ku Klux Klan territory. The ILD appealed the case and hired defense attorney Samuel Leibowitz. Bates recanted her rape story and agreed to testify on behalf of the defense. Despite Bates’ cooperation, and no evidence proving their guilt, the Scottsboro Boys were convicted again, though Patterson’s death sentence was suspended.

In a unanimous decision, the Alabama Supreme Court denied the defense’s motions for a new trial, and in January 1935, the case returned to the U.S. Supreme Court for a second time. The guilty verdict against Norris was overturned and new trials were ordered for him and Patterson. Norris’ third trial ended in another conviction and death sentence along with Weems and Andy Wright. Roy Wright spent six years in prison while the case was tried several times.

Prosecutors eventually agreed to drop the rape charges against Powell, who was later convicted of assaulting a deputy sheriff and sentenced to 20 years. The remaining rape charges were also dropped against Montgomery, Roberson, Williams and Roy Wright, and they were released from custody.

Enduring back-to-back trials took a tole on the group that likely had a ripple effect on their lives. One of the accused was left disabled after being shot while being escorted to prison. Others returned to custody on various convictions over the years. Norris, the eldest and the last surviving among the bunch, evaded parole in 1946 and went into hiding for 30 years. He was found in 1976, and pardoned by Alabama Gov. George Wallace. Norris died in 1989.

After more than 80 years, the Scottsboro Boys were posthumously pardoned in 2013. See more on the story in the video below.

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