Printer Friendly

Justice for Emmett: fifty years after the murder that changed America, a new legal chapter has begun.

FIFTY years after Black America was traumatized by the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Money, Miss., tens of thousands of Americans from coast to coast will gather this month in solemn ceremonies, prayer services and protests to remember his heart-wrenching ordeal and to demand truth and justice.

In the weeks and months leading up to this 50-year marker, a crescendo of events revived interest in the case and made the Till lynching of 1955 one of the biggest stories of 2005. Perhaps one of the biggest developments is that the federal government reopened its investigation into Till's murder, exhumed his body and performed a long-delayed autopsy.

On August 28, 1955, Till was shaken awake, dragged from his bed and murdered in Money, Miss., allegedly for whistling at a White store clerk, Carolyn Bryant. The Chicago teenager was visiting his uncle who lived near Money, and his battered and brutalized body was found later floating feet-up in the current of the Tallahatchie River. He had been beaten, shot and his body weighted down with a portable cotton gin. Many key figures of the Civil Rights Movement have said that the murder of Mamie Till Mobley's only son galvanized and propelled the Civil Rights Movement. Rosa Parks has said she was thinking of the Till case when she refused to move to the back of a public bus in Montgomery, Ala.

And in a serendipitous twist, August 28,1963, the date of Emmett Till's lynching in 1955--eight years later--was also the date of the historic March on Washington, which galvanized 250,000 Americans, 60,000 of them White, and the site of Dr. Martin Luther King's historic"I Have A Dream" speech.

Till's mother's decision to fight the state authorities and have his body shipped to Chicago and later displayed in an open casket so that the world could see what they had done to her boy, also placed the state of Mississippi and its Jim Crow system of segregation on public display.

EBONY and Jet played major roles in this drama by publishing photos of Till's mutilated body. Later, an all-White jury acquitted the two men charged with Till's murder, Roy Bryant, the store clerk's husband, and his half-brother J.W. Milam. The men later confessed in media interviews that they had kidnapped and killed Till. Both men have since died. Mamie Till Mobley died in 2003 after dedicating her life to keeping her son's memory alive and to pursuing justice.

Mississippi was called the "land of the Till murder" in the foreign press. Clotye Murdock Larsson, an EBONY reporter who covered the Till trial in 1955, now lives in a peaceful, flower-filled Stockholm suburb and says that she "trembles slightly when reminded of it."

She says the trial proceedings seemed surreal, adding, "this Southern drama, the tense and hateful atmosphere" crystallized into "one pure, shining moment" when Till's uncle, Moses Wright, 'took the stand to identify Till's kidnappers. "Moses ... pointing his finger. Moses ... the accuser. He was possibly the most courageous man I ever met."

Simeon Wright, Till's cousin, was sleeping in the same bed with Emmett Till when the boy was abducted. Now 62, Wright told a reporter he wants more than an apology from the state of Mississippi--he wants justice. He told the Chicago Defender: "This was the most brutal crime in this century and all you want is an apology? No, I want justice!"

--Joy Bennett Kinnon

EBONY editor Clotye Larsson (above), who covered the 1955 Till trial, says today it was a "grotesque miscarriage of justice." Mamie Till Mobley (left, c.) celebrates in 1991 at unveiling of the Emmett Till Road street sign in Chicago. Joining her in the celebration (1. to r.) are Rosa Parks, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and former Mayor Eugene Sawyer. Simeon Wright (below, 1.), Till's cousin, greets family and friends at June re-interment ceremony for Till.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Johnson Publishing Co.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Kinnon, Joy Bennett
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2005
Previous Article:The gardening craze: the popularity of tilling the earth blooms among blacks.
Next Article:Speaking of people.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters