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Emmett Louis Till was born on July 25, 1941, and died on August 28, 1955. He was an African-American teenager who lived so fast and died too young after being lynched in Mississippi by allegedly flirting with a white woman. He had visited a relative in Money a town in Mississippi when he met his death. He flirted with a married 21- years, Carolyn Bryant, a proprietor of a small grocery store. After some couple of nights, Bryant husband, Roy and his half-brother Milan stormed into Till’s great-uncle house and abducted the boy, tortured him through beatings and mutilations. Worst still, they shot him and kill him instantly before dumping his body in the Tallahatchie River.
The body took some three good days to be found and retrieved from the river. This is regarded racism of the highest order (Houck). Something so shocking is that he the murders of Till were acquitted later. Something must have been amiss. But then looking at the benefits this murder came with, it turns from a saddening dirge to a success story. This is because it was a turning point for the African-Americans to start agitating for their rights. It is a story that is very relevant to history students world over. The human rights, racism, unfair trials and importance of civil rights are all covered in this paper about Emmett Till.
Events That Led To His Murder
It is hard to believe that wolf whistle could lead to a death of a teenager. But it resulted in his demise. It started on a Sunday morning, on 24th August when Till and his cousin Curtis Wright skipped church and went to Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market to buy candy.(Anderson 2008)
Carolyn was alone in the store that day. It is alleged that Till was provoked by other boys to approach Carolyn and prove a point that he had seen white girls before. What happened there after is still disputable. But the facts are he wolf-whistled Carolyn, flirted with her and asked for a date. The step he took never looked such suicidal, but it cost him his life. What is revealed in this event is the racism that had taken root in this society. It was reported by Jones; the other boys said that till had a photograph of an integrated class at school he attended in Chicago, and Till bragged to the boys that white girl in the picture was her girlfriend. Having a white girlfriend when you were black was such a credit (Crowe).
Fearing to cause a scene, Till left the place with other boys; Of course after Carolyn going for her pistol in the car and raising eyebrows to the neighbors the likes of Jones. All this happened when Roy Bryant was on a trip to Texas and never returned home till August 27.
When Roy came back from his trip, he was told the ordeal that befell his wife. He must have been saddened by the story and decided to flex his muscle. He harassed the other boys who were in the company of Till and the process got to learn more about the where about of till.
They conspired by his step-brother to attach him. At around 3:30 am on August 28, 1955, Bryant, Milan and another man (believed to be black) armed, went for Emmett Till. Milan asked Wright to take him to the “nigger who did the talking (Nelson).” Wright offered money in exchange for Till’s safety but they needed him badly, they declined.
They drove Till to a barn at the Clint Shurden Plantation in Dew. He was pistol-whipped. They killed him and weighted his body with the fans. Three days later, his disfigured body was found by two boys fishing in the Tallahatchie River. The body was identified to be his together with the ring he was wearing.
Till’s murder brought a feeling of segregation, the relationship between North and South, law enforcement and the social status quo in Mississippi. Authorities deeply criticized the murder. For instance, Roy Wilkins characterized the scenario as a lynching and also added that Mississippi was attempting to maintain white supremacy through murder (Robson). Photos of his mutilated corpse went around the country. The black community was agitated so much by this ordeal like never before. Till was buried on September 6, 1955.
The trial was held in September 1955, which lasted for five good days. To some visitors from the North, they found the court to be run with informality. For instance, the jury welcomed black spectators coming back for lunch with a cheerful, “Hello Niggers” while white men in the congregation wore handguns holstered to their belts. The defense insisted on Bryant and Milan letting Till go. In fact wondered whether Till was dead at all. On September 23 the all-white judge bench acquitted bothers defendants. In later interviews Bryant testified that they indeed killed Till. Furthermore, jurors acknowledged that they know Till’s killers were Bryant and Milan but simply didn’t believe death penalty or life imprisonment fit punishment for whites that had killed the white man (Houck).
Blames for outcome varied from the post-trial analysis. Apparently, there wasn’t enough that Mamie Till Bradley could cry about. The jurors ultimately knew the result of the case before even started. The judge was believed to have been influenced almost exclusively from Tallahatchie.
Influence on the Civil Rights
Till’s case became a sign of disparity of justice for blacks in the south. In 1985 Myrlie Evers, stated that Till’s case raised eyebrows because it “shook the foundations of Mississippi both black and white.” The NAACP Once asked Mamie Till to tour the country and narrates the life history of his child to the trial of the perpetrators of his death. It comes out as one of the successful fundraisings of NAACP. Louis Lomax, a journalist, acknowledged that Till’s death was the start of ‘Negro revolt”. Even Clenora Hudson-Weems called Till as a ‘sacrificial lamb’ for civil rights. NAACP operative termed it Civil Rights Movement at its very least in Mississippi (Houck).
It left a scar on the hearts of the people, especially the African-Americans and the white sympathizers. The court where the jurors made a verdict of acquitting Bryant and Milan is dilapidated. Despite having seen some renovation and remodeling nothing much can be attributed to its growth. That talks much about the scar left behind by the verdict made in that courtroom.
Simeon Booker, A reporters Account of the Civil Rights Movement noted that “I quickly learned that you could be whipped or even be murdered for resisting to get out of the sidewalk when moving closer to a white folk, for not remembering to utter the words “yes, sir” and “No, sir” to them, no matter their age, or for the unpardonable crime of attempting to register to vote”
In 1955, Dr. T.R.M took to the stage to support Eve’s sentiments, Bookers wrote. “In their midst, there was a (Congressman-Charles) Diggs, who would later be known as a radical congressional advocate for disenfranchised Blacks in Mississippi. The third would be shot dead before a new moon had risen over the Delta (Robson).”
The story of Mr. Till is one of the most significant stories in the history of civil rights and the fight against racism in the 20th century. It enables us to feel the pain, tell the story, understand the loss as well as learning our disservices to the human kind and swear never to happen again. Just like how Till was crying and shouting when beatings and torture went on, that he was much equal to his murders, that he was seeing the white lady just like any of them. He had equal rights as any human being (Crowe). So unfortunate that his assailant never took this a challenge but rather as insults, and ended up mutilating his body and weighing it down with fans. Although it is over 60 years now, but the 28th of August 1955 will remain in the memories of people as a day that valuable life of a courageous teenager was taken away after having crossed the racial line that was never crossed before.
Nelson, Marilyn, and Philippe Lardy. A Wreath for Emmett Till. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
Crowe, Chris. Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case. New York:
Phyllis Fogelman, 2003. Print.
Houck, Davis W., and Matthew A. Grindy. Emmett Till and the Mississippi Press. Jackson: U of
Mississippi, 2008. Print.
Robson, David. The Murder of Emmett Till. Farmington Hills, MI: Lucent, 2010. Print.
(Robson) (Houck) (Crowe) (Nelson)
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