UNC Press – White Women, Rape, and the Power of Race in Virginia, 1900-1960, by Lisa Lindquist Dorr. Chapter Excerpt.

Nevertheless, in an early articulation of what would come to be rape shield laws, which, in the 1970s, attempted to protect against attacks on the character of a rape victim, white southerners argued that the two women’s sordid sexual past should have no bearing on the case. As one spectator told a reporter, the victim “might be a fallen woman, but by God she is a white woman.”[2] Though the nine accused men eventually won their freedom, the Scottsboro case, as it came to be known, has become the paradigm for all black-on-white rape cases in the twentieth century, in which the accuser’s whiteness overrode any consideration of her gender, sexual history, or class status. As one song about the case insisted, “Messin’ white women / Snake lyin’ tale / Dat hang and burn / And jail wit’ no bail.”[3] This case seemingly proved the power of the “rape myth”: that white southerners accepted all white women’s accounts of rape when they accused black men, thereby instigating a united effort to seek revenge. The myth insisted that black men were driven to assault white women and that, as a deterrent, “black beast rapists” should pay with their lives, even if white women’s charges were little more than “snake lyin’ tales.”

 

via UNC Press – White Women, Rape, and the Power of Race in Virginia, 1900-1960, by Lisa Lindquist Dorr. Chapter Excerpt..

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