The Chronicle

Pardons too late for dead men


Seven black men executed 70 years ago in Virginia for the rape of a white woman have been pardoned posthumous­ly by the state’s governor.

The Martinsvil­le Seven, all but one aged between 18 and 23, were convicted by an allwhite jury and sentenced to death within eight days of the crime. President Harry Truman ignored protests and pleas for clemency and in 1951 the men were sent to the electric chair, four of them in 15minute intervals, the others three days later.

Before the youngest died he said: “God knows I didn’t touch that woman. I’ll see you all on the other side.”

Ralph Northam, the Democratic governor of Virginia, who has abolished the death penalty, stopped short of saying that the seven were innocent, but pointed out that all 45 men executed for rape in the state between 1908 and 1951 were black. “Today we are here to acknowledg­e the wrong that was done to these seven men,” he said.

Ruby Stroud Floyd, a 32year-old white woman, told police she had been attacked after going to a largely black area of Martinsvil­le to collect money for clothes she had sold.

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