Friday, January 18, 2008

The murder of Emmett Till

(Dusty Hill was an eighth grader at South Middle School during the 2006-2007 school year.)
About one year after the Brown vs. Board of Education trial that ended segregation, a boy named Emmett Till decided to visit his relatives in Money, Mississippi. While you might be wondering what this has to do with a 14-year-old boy from Chicago, the following information will explain. (Sirimalo, Elizabeth, Voices from-the Civil Rights Movement. 2005 pg. 51)
Emmett Till was an African American boy around the age of 14. I say “was” because of what happened to him prevents him from being alive today. Till was bold and very intelligent. He wanted to visit his relatives in Money, Mississippi but his mother Mamie Till begged her son not to go. She knew of the prejudice in the South, while Emmett was unaccustomed to it. He had experienced prejudice in his hometown of Chicago but was not knowing of what was in store for him in the south. Finally Mamie gave in to her son but warned him, “Be careful. If you have to get down on your knees and bow when a white person goes past, do it willingly.” Unfortunately, Till did not think this would be necessary. Unfortunately it was. ( The Lynching of Emmett Till)
Emmett left for Mississippi on August 20, 1955, with his cousin Curtis Jones. Since 1882 over 500 African Americans had been lynched and racist murders were sadly common especially where Emmett was visiting. A murder recent to the time involved the hate of two black registered voters. Hate groups like the KKK wanted to keep life as they saw fit. (McElrath Jessica, The Murder of Emmett Till)
Emmett arrived with his cousin on August 21, at his great uncle’s house. Emmett’s great uncle’s name was Moses Wright. On August 24, Till and his cousin stopped at Bryant’s grocery store to buy some candy. Before entering the store, Emmett showed some pictures of a white girl to some local boys outside the store. He bragged that this girl was his girlfriend. The kids dared Emmett to go inside the store and then talk to Carolyn Bryant, the store clerk. There are a few stories of what Emmett did inside the store, but he either whistled at her or said “bye baby” as he left the store. ( The Murder of Emmett Till)
Not knowing of the severity of his actions he simply continued on with life for three days. Although after the incident, four days later, early in the morning the husband of the wife of the store clerk paid a visit to Emmett. The man’s name was Roy Bryant. He was accompanied by his half brother J.W. Milam. The two appeared at the door of Mose’s house with a pistol and flashlight in hand. Obviously threatened by the gun Mose led the men to Emmett’s room. The two told Till to hurry up and get dressed. They evened threatened to kill Moses. If he told anyone about this, they would murder him. (McElrath, Jessica)
Hours later, Mamie was notified of her son’s kidnapping. She notified the Chicago newspapers of what had happened to her son. Wright informed the sheriff who later arrested Bryant and Milam for kidnapping.(McElrath, Jessica)
Later on that week, Emmett’s body was discovered in the Tallahatchie River. His face was so distorted he was beyond recognition. The only way he was recognized was that he was wearing his father’s ring. During Emmett’s funeral, his mother wanted an open casket funeral. This was to show the world what had been done to her son. It didn’t only have that affect. Yes people were astonished both whites and blacks. It also made many people come to a harsh realization about the South. It helped the Civil Rights movement incredibly. Many African American preachers were preaching about Till’s case. Almost the whole nation demanded something be done about the prejudice and violence in Mississippi.(The Lynching of Emmett Till)
People of Mississippi were not taken to others’ views about them. Many locals sadly supported the murderers. Five renowned lawyers chose to help the men. The trial of the men occurred in Sumner, Mississippi, on September 19, 1955. This also occurred in front of an all white jury in a segregated court house. One of the hardest jobs of the persecution was to find people to testify against the white men. This is because back then it was unknown of a black person to accuse a white person of committing a crime. (The Murder of Emmett Till)
The first to step forward was Emmett’s uncle, Mose Wright. He was asked if he could notify if the men who killed his nephew were in the room. Mose then pointed to Milam and Bryant proclaiming they had been the two who brutally murdered his nephew. Of course he did not say it in those exact words but he did recognize them as the two who had kidnapped Till and then murdered him. Mose then convinced other African Americans to testify against the two. Although for their protection all who testified against them had to evacuate the state.(The Murder of Emmett Till)
The strange thing was that the main strategy of the defense that the body was not indeed Till’s. Bryant and Milam stated later they let Till go and believe he was hiding out in Chicago. Till’s mother was positive the body was her son’s. Sadly the jury found The white men guilty by the fact that they did not have enough evidence that the body was Till’s.(McElrath, Jessica)
The verdict hit hard on Americans. This was especially hard for Emmett’s mother. She later stated "Two months ago I had a nice apartment in Chicago. I had a good job. I had a son. When something happened to the Negroes in the South I said, `That's their business, not mine.' Now I know how wrong. I was. The murder of my son has shown me that what happens to any of us, anywhere in the world, had better be the business of us all."(The Murder of Emmett Till)

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