Monday, March 3, 2008

Emmett Till: Part 1

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Feom wikipedia, part 1 of biography

Emmett Louis "Bobo" Till (July 25, 1941 – August 28, 1955) was a fourteen year old African-American from Chicago, Illinois brutally murdered [1] in Money, Mississippi, a small town in the state's Delta region. The murder of Emmett Till was noted as one of the leading events that motivated the nascent American Civil Rights Movement.qwdf The main suspects were acquitted, but later admitted to committing the crime.
Till's mother insisted on a public funeral service with an open casket to let everyone see how he had been brutally killed.[2] He had been brutally beaten and had his eye gouged out before he was shot through the head and thrown into the Tallahatchie River with a 75-pound cotton gin fan tied to his neck with barbed wire. His body was in the river for three days before it was discovered and retrieved by two fishermen.
Till was laid to rest in Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois. The murder case was officially reopened in May 2004, and as a part of the investigation the body was exhumed so an autopsy could be performed.The body was reburied by the family in the same location later that week.
Emmett Till was the son of Mamie Till and Louis Till. Emmett's mother was born to John and Alma Carthan in the small Delta town of Webb, Mississippi ("the Delta" being the traditional name for the area of northwestern Mississippi at the confluence of the Yazoo and Mississippi Rivers). When she was two years old, her family moved to Illinois. Emmett's mother largely raised him on her own; she and Louis Till had separated in 1942.
Emmett's father, Louis Till, was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943. While serving in Italy, he was convicted of raping two women and killing a third. He was executed by the Army by hanging near Pisa in July 1945. Before Emmett Till's killing, the Till family knew none of this, having been told only that Louis had been killed due to "willful misconduct". The facts of Louis Till's execution were made widely known after Emmett Till's death, by segregationist senator James Eastland, in an apparent attempt to turn public support away from Mrs. Till just weeks before the trials of Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, the implication being that criminal behavior ran in the Till family.
In 1955, Till and his cousin were sent to stay for the summer with Till's uncle, Moses Wright, who lived in Money, Mississippi (another small town in the Delta, eight miles north of Greenwood).
Before his departure for the Delta, Till's mother cautioned him to "mind his manners" with white people.
Till's mother understood that race relations in Mississippi were very different from those in Chicago. Mississippi had seen many lynchings during the South's lynching era (ca. 1876-1930), and racially motivated murders were still not unfamiliar, especially in the Delta region where Till was going for a visit. Racial tensions were also on the rise after the United States Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education to end segregation in public education.
Till arrived on August 21. On August 24, he joined other young teenagers as they went to Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market to get some candy and soda. The teens were children of sharecroppers and had been picking cotton all day. The market was owned by a husband and wife, Roy Bryant and Carolyn Bryant, and mostly catered to the local sharecropper population. Till's cousin and several black youths, all under 16, were with Till in the store. Till had shown them photos of his life back home, including one of him with his friends and girlfriend, a white girl. The boys didn't believe that he had a white girlfriend and dared him to talk to a white woman in the shop.
As Till was leaving the store, he said "Bye, baby," to Carolyn Bryant, a married white woman. She stood up and rushed to her car. The boys were terrified, thinking she might return with a pistol, and ran away.
Carolyn Bryant told others of the events at the store, and the news spread quickly. When Bryant's husband returned from a road trip a few days later and was told the news, he was greatly angered. By that point, it seemed that everyone in Tallahatchie County had heard about the incident, which had had several days to percolate. Different versions were disseminated. Till's cousin, Wheeler Parker, Jr., who was with him at the store, claims Till did nothing but whistle at the woman. "He loved pranks, he loved fun, he loved jokes... in Mississippi, people didn't think the same jokes were funny." Carolyn Bryant later asserted that Till had grabbed her at the waist and asked her for a date. She said the young man also used "unprintable" words. He had a slight stutter and some have conjectured that Bryant might have misinterpreted what Till said. Bryant decided that he and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, 36, would meet at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday to "teach the boy a lesson."
At about 12:30 a.m. on August 28, Bryant and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, came in a car with two people in the back whose identities have still not been confirmed, and kidnapped Emmett Till from his great-uncle's house in the middle of the night. According to witnesses, they drove him to a weathered shed on a plantation in neighboring Sunflower County, where they brutally beat and then shot him. A fan was tied around his neck with barbed wire in order to weigh down his body, which they dropped into the Tallahatchie River near Glendora, Mississippi, another small cotton town north of Money.
Afterwards, with Till missing, Bryant and Milam admitted they had taken the boy from his great-uncle's yard but claimed they turned him loose the same night. Some supposed that relatives of Till were hiding him out of fear for the youth’s safety or that he had been sent back to Chicago where he would be safe. Word got out that Till was missing and soon NAACP civil rights leader Medgar Evers, the state field secretary, and Amzie Moore, head of the Bolivar County chapter, became involved, disguising themselves as cotton pickers and going into the cotton fields in search of any information that would help find the young visitor from Chicago.
After Till's body was recovered, the brothers and the police tried to convince people that it wasn't Till; that Till was in Chicago and that the beaten boy was someone else. Till's features were too distorted by the beatings to easily identify him, but he was positively identified thanks to a ring he wore on his finger that had been his father's. His mother had given it to him the day before he left for Money. The brothers were soon under official suspicion for the boy's disappearance and were arrested August 29 after spending the night with relatives in Ruleville, just miles from the scene of the crime.
Moses Wright, a witness to Till's abduction, told the Sheriff that a person who sounded like a woman had identified Till as "the one," after which Bryant and Milam had driven away with him. Bryant and Milam claimed they later found out Till was not "the one" who had allegedly "insulted" Mrs. Bryant, and swore to Sheriff George Smith they had released him. They would later recant and confess after their acquittal.
In an editorial on Friday, September 2, Greenville journalist Hodding Carter, Jr. asserted that "people who are guilty of this savage crime should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," a brave suggestion for any Mississippi newspaper editor to make at the time.
After Till's disfigured body was found, he was put into a pine box and nearly buried, but Mamie Till wanted the body to come back to Chicago. A Tutwiler mortuary assistant worked all night to prepare the body as best he could so that Mamie Till could bring Emmett's body back to Chicago.
The Chicago funeral home had agreed not to open the casket, but Mamie Till fought their decision. The state of Mississippi insisted it would not allow the funeral home to open it, so Mamie threatened to open it herself, insisting she had a right to see her son. After viewing the body, she also insisted on leaving the casket open for the funeral and allowing people to take photographs because she wanted people to see how badly Till's body had been disfigured. News photographs of Till's mutilated corpse circulated around the country, notably appearing in Jet magazine, and drew intense public reaction. Some reports said that up to 50,000 people viewed the body.

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