The Central Park Five, the Scottsboro Boys, and the Myth of the Bestial Black Man

41 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2005

See all articles by N. Jeremi Duru

N. Jeremi Duru

American University - Washington College of Law


In late 1989, five East Harlem teenagers were convicted of brutally raping a white jogger in Central Park, and New York City erupted in racial animosity. Over thirteen years later, on the heels of a serial rapist's detailed confession to the Central Park rape and Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau's subsequent investigation revealing extensive evidence of the serial rapist's culpability, New York State Justice Charles Tejada vacated the youths' convictions. Now, in the wake of this monumental development in one of the most racially divisive criminal cases in American history, we are left to consider how these wrongful convictions came to be. This article seeks to do so.

Specifically, this article seeks to examine the Central Park convictions in light of America's long-standing battle with racial stereotyping and, more particularly, in light of the myth, deeply imbedded in American history, that black men are animalistic, sexually unrestrained, and inherently criminal. By deconstructing this myth and analyzing its historic impact on the criminal justice system, its particular impact on the notorious wrongful rape convictions of the Scottsboro Boys in 1931, and its stubborn persistence in modern America, this article seeks to demonstrate the myth's influence on the Central Park convictions.

Keywords: race, crime, central park jogger, critical race, black, african american

Suggested Citation

Duru, N. Jeremi, The Central Park Five, the Scottsboro Boys, and the Myth of the Bestial Black Man. Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 25, p. 1315, 2004, Available at SSRN:

N. Jeremi Duru (Contact Author)

American University - Washington College of Law ( email )

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202-274-4414 (Phone)

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