Brutality of a Killing a Black Boy : Emmett Till

Brutality of a Killing a Black Boy : Emmett Till ...
1host2u.com 28/08/1955 History

Keywords:#1host2u.ir, #African, #American, #Charleston, #Chatham, #Chicago, #Christ, #Christmas, #Cold_War, #Delta, #Emmett_Till, #Governor, #Illinois, #Jet, #Michigan, #New_York, #New_York_Times, #News, #Newsweek, #People, #September, #Smithsonian, #The_Nation, #Times, #United_States, #Washington

Emmett Louis Till (July 25, 1941 – August 28, 1955) was an African-American teenager who was lynched in Mississippi at the age of 14 after reportedly flirting with a white woman.
Till was from Chicago, Illinois, and visiting relatives in Money, a small town in the Mississippi Delta region. He spoke to 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant, the married proprietor of a small grocery store there. Several nights later, Bryant's husband Roy and his half-brother J. W. Milam went to Till's great-uncle's house and abducted the boy. They took him away and beat and mutilated him before shooting him and sinking his body in the Tallahatchie River. Three days later, Till's body was discovered and retrieved from the river.
Till's body was returned to Chicago. His mother, who had mostly raised him, insisted on a public funeral service with an open casket to show the world the brutality of the killing. "The open-coffin funeral held by Mamie Till Bradley exposed the world to more than her son Emmett Till's bloated, mutilated body. Her decision focused attention not only on American racism and the barbarism of lynching but also on the limitations and vulnerabilities of American democracy". Tens of thousands attended his funeral or viewed his casket and images of his mutilated body were published in black-oriented magazines and newspapers, rallying popular black support and white sympathy across the U.S. Intense scrutiny was brought to bear on the condition of black civil rights in Mississippi, with newspapers around the country critical of the state. Although initially local newspapers and law enforcement officials decried the violence against Till and called for justice, they soon began responding to national criticism by defending Mississippians, which eventually transformed into support for the killers.
In September 1955, Bryant and Milam were acquitted of Till's kidnapping and murder. Protected against double jeopardy, Bryant and Milam publicly admitted in an interview with Look magazine that they killed Till. Problems identifying Till affected the trial, partially leading to Bryant's and Milam's acquittals, and the case was officially reopened by the United States Department of Justice in 2004. As part of the investigation, the body was exhumed and autopsied resulting in a positive identification. He was reburied in a new casket, which is the standard practice in cases of body exhumation. His original casket was donated to the Smithsonian Institution.
The trial of Bryant and Milam attracted a vast amount of press attention. Till's murder is noted as a pivotal catalyst to the next phase of the Civil Rights Movement. Events surrounding Emmett Till's life and death, according to historians, continue to resonate. Some writers have suggested that almost every story about Mississippi returns to Till, or the region in which he died, in "some spiritual, homing way".
In August 1955, Emmett Till, a black teenager from Chicago, was visiting relatives in Mississippi when he stopped at Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market. There he encountered Carolyn Bryant, a white woman. Whether Till really flirted with Bryant or whistled at her isn’t known. But what happened four days later is. Bryant’s husband Roy and his half brother, J.W. Milam, seized the 14-year-old from his great-uncle’s house. The pair then beat Till, shot him, and strung barbed wire and a 75-pound metal fan around his neck and dumped the lifeless body in the Tallahatchie River. A white jury quickly acquitted the men, with one juror saying it had taken so long only because they had to break to drink some pop. When Till’s mother Mamie came to identify her son, she told the funeral director, “Let the people see what I’ve seen.” She brought him home to Chicago and insisted on an open casket. Tens of thousands filed past Till’s remains, but it was the publication of the searing funeral image in Jet, with a stoic Mamie gazing at her murdered child’s ravaged body, that forced the world to reckon with the brutality of American racism. For almost a century, African Americans were lynched with regularity and impunity. Now, thanks to a mother’s determination to expose the barbarousness of the crime, the public could no longer pretend to ignore what they couldn’t see.
When Roy Bryant was told of what had happened, he aggressively questioned several young black men who entered the store. That evening, Bryant, with a black man named J. W. Washington, approached a young black man walking along a road. Bryant ordered Washington to seize the young man, put him in the back of a pickup truck, and took him to be identified by a companion of Carolyn's who had witnessed the episode with Till. Friends or parents vouched for the young men in Bryant's store, and Carolyn's companion denied that the young man Bryant and Washington seized was the one who had accosted her. Somehow, Bryant learned that the young man in the incident was from Chicago and was staying with Mose Wright. Several witnesses overheard Bryant and his 36-year-old half-brother John William "J. W." Milam discussing taking Till from his house.
In the early morning hours—between 2:00 am and 3:30 am—on August 28, 1955, Bryant, Milam, and another man (who may have been black) drove to Mose Wright's house. Milam was armed with a pistol and a flashlight. He asked Wright if he had three boys in the house from Chicago. Till shared a bed with another cousin; there were eight people in the small two-bedroom cabin. Milam asked Wright to take them to "the nigger who did the talking". When they asked Till if it was him, he replied, "Yeah", for which they threatened to shoot him and told him to get dressed. The men threatened to kill Wright if he reported what he had seen. Till's great-aunt offered the men money, but they did not respond.
They put Till in the back of a pickup truck and drove to a barn at the Clint Shurden Plantation in Drew. Till was pistol-whipped and placed in the bed of the pickup truck again and covered with a tarpaulin. Throughout the course of the night, Bryant, Milam, and witnesses recall their being in several locations with Till. According to some witnesses, they took Till to a shed behind Milam's home in the nearby town of Glendora, where they beat him again and tried to decide what to do. Witnesses recall between two and four white men and two and four black men who were either in or surrounding the pickup truck where Till was seated. Others passed by Milam's shed and heard someone being beaten. Accounts differ as to when Till was shot; either in Milam's shed or by the Tallahatchie River. The group drove with him in the truck to Bryant's store, where several people noticed blood pooling in the truck bed. Bryant explained he killed a deer, and in one instance showed the body to a black man who questioned him, saying "that's what happens to smart niggers".
Well, what else could we do? He was hopeless. I'm no bully; I never hurt a nigger in my life. I like niggers—in their place—I know how to work 'em. But I just decided it was time a few people got put on notice. As long as I live and can do anything about it, niggers are gonna stay in their place. Niggers ain't gonna vote where I live. If they did, they'd control the government. They ain't gonna go to school with my kids. And when a nigger gets close to mentioning sex with a white woman, he's tired o' livin'. I'm likely to kill him. Me and my folks fought for this country, and we got some rights. I stood there in that shed and listened to that nigger throw that poison at me, and I just made up my mind. 'Chicago boy,' I said, 'I'm tired of 'em sending your kind down here to stir up trouble. Goddam you, I'm going to make an example of you—just so everybody can know how me and my folks stand.'
J. W. Milam, Look magazine, 1956
In an interview with William Bradford Huie, published in Look magazine in 1956, Bryant and Milam said they intended to beat Till and throw him off an embankment into the river to frighten him. They told Huie that while they were beating Till, he called them bastards, declared he was as good as they, and had had sexual encounters with white women. They put Till in the back of their truck, drove to a cotton gin to take a 70-pound (32 kg) fan—the only time they admitted to being worried, thinking that by this time in early daylight they would be spotted and accused of stealing—and drove for several miles along the river looking for a place to dispose of Till. They shot him by the river and weighted his body with the fan.
Mose Wright stayed on his front porch for twenty minutes waiting for Till to return. He did not go back to bed. He and another man went into Money, got gasoline, and drove around trying to find Till. Unsuccessful, they returned home by 8:00 am. After hearing from Wright that he would not call the police because he feared for his life, Curtis Jones placed a call to the Leflore County sheriff and another to his mother in Chicago. Distraught, she called Emmett's mother Mamie Till Bradley. Wright and his wife also drove to Sumner, where Elizabeth Wright's brother contacted the sheriff.
Bryant and Milam were questioned by Leflore County sheriff George Smith. They admitted they had taken the boy from his great-uncle's yard but claimed they had released him the same night in front of Bryant's store. Bryant and Milam were arrested for kidnapping. Word got out that Till was missing, and soon Medgar Evers, Mississippi state field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Amzie Moore, head of the Bolivar County chapter, became involved. They disguised themselves as cotton pickers and went into the cotton fields in search of any information that might help find Till.
Three days after his abduction, Till's swollen and disfigured body was found by two boys fishing in the Tallahatchie River. His head was very badly damaged. He had been shot above the right ear, an eye was dislodged from the socket, there was evidence that he had been beaten on the back and the hips, and his body weighted by the fan blade, which was fastened around his neck with barbed wire. He was nude, but wearing a silver ring with the initials "L. T." and "May 25, 1943" carved in it.
Confusion about Till's whereabouts and a positive identification of the body retrieved from the river compounded issues in the case that eventually influenced the trial. Hodding Carter in the Delta Democrat-Times, a local Mississippi newspaper, reported that Till may have been hidden by his relatives or perhaps returned to Chicago for his safety. The body's face was unrecognizable due to trauma and having been submerged in water. Mose Wright was called to the river and identified Till. The silver ring Till wore was removed and returned to Wright, and further passed to the district attorney. Stories from witnesses, both black and white, conflict about whether the ring was on Till's body and who knew he had worn it previously.
Funeral and reaction
Although lynchings and racially motivated murders had occurred throughout the South for decades, the circumstances surrounding Emmett Till and the timing acted as a catalyst to attract national attention to the case of a 14-year-old boy who had unknowingly defied a severe social caste system. Till's murder aroused feelings about segregation, law enforcement, relations between the North and South, the social status quo in Mississippi, the NAACP, White Citizens' Councils, and the Cold War, all of which were played out in a drama staged in newspapers all over the U.S. and abroad.
When Till went missing, a three-paragraph story was printed in the Greenwood Commonwealth and quickly picked up by other Mississippi newspapers. They reported on his death when the body was found, and the next day, when a picture of him his mother had taken the previous Christmas showing them smiling together appeared in the Jackson Daily News and Vicksburg Evening Post, editorials and letters to the editor were printed expressing shame at the people who had caused Till's death. One read, "Now is the time for every citizen who loves the state of Mississippi to 'Stand up and be counted' before hoodlum white trash brings us to destruction." The letter said that Negroes were not the downfall of Mississippi society, but whites like those in White Citizens' Councils that condoned violence.
Till's body was clothed, packed in lime, and put in a pine coffin and prepared for burial. It may have been embalmed while in Mississippi. Mamie Till Bradley demanded that the body be sent to Chicago; she later said that she worked to halt an immediate burial in Mississippi and called several local and state authorities in Illinois and Mississippi to make sure that her son was returned to Chicago. A doctor did not examine Till post-mortem.
Mississippi's governor, Hugh L. White, deplored the murder, asserting that local authorities should pursue a "vigorous prosecution". He sent a telegram to the national offices of the NAACP promising a full investigation and assuring them "Mississippi does not condone such conduct". Delta residents, both black and white, also distanced themselves from Till's murder, finding the circumstances abhorrent. Local newspaper editorials denounced the murderers without question. Leflore County Deputy Sheriff John Cothran stated, "The white people around here feel pretty mad about the way that poor little boy was treated, and they won't stand for this."
Soon, however, discourse about Till's murder became more complex. Robert B. Patterson, executive secretary of the segregationist White Citizens' Council, lamented Till's death by reiterating that racial segregation policies were in force for blacks' safety and that their efforts were being neutralized by the NAACP. In response, NAACP executive secretary Roy Wilkins characterized the incident as a lynching and said that Mississippi was trying to maintain white supremacy through murder. He said, "there is in the entire state no restraining influence of decency, not in the state capital, among the daily newspapers, the clergy, nor any segment of the so-called better citizens". Mamie Till Bradley told a reporter that she would seek legal aid to help law enforcement find her son's killers and that the State of Mississippi should share the financial responsibility. She was misquoted; it came out as "Mississippi is going to pay for this".
The A. A. Rayner Funeral Home in Chicago received Till's body. Upon arrival, Bradley insisted on viewing it to make a positive identification, later stating that the stench from it was noticeable two blocks away. She decided to have an open-casket funeral, saying, "There was just no way I could describe what was in that box. No way. And I just wanted the world to see." Tens of thousands of people lined the street outside the mortuary to view Till's body, and days later thousands more attended his funeral at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ.
Photographs of his mutilated corpse circulated around the country, notably appearing in Jet magazine and The Chicago Defender, both black publications, and drew intense public reaction. According to The Nation and Newsweek, Chicago's black community was "aroused as it has not been over any similar act in recent history". Till was buried on September 6 in Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois.
News about Emmett Till spread to both coasts. Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and Illinois Governor William Stratton also became involved, urging Governor White to see that justice be done. The tone in Mississippi newspapers changed dramatically. They falsely reported riots in the funeral home in Chicago. Bryant and Milam appeared in photos smiling in military uniforms and Carolyn Bryant's beauty and virtue were extolled. Rumors of an invasion of outraged blacks and northern whites were printed throughout the state so that the Leflore County sheriff took them seriously. Local businessman, surgeon, and civil rights proponent T. R. M. Howard, one of the wealthiest blacks in the state, warned of a "second civil war" if "slaughtering of Negroes" was allowed. Following Wilkins' comments, white opinion began to shift. According to historian Stephen Whitfield, a specific brand of xenophobia in the South was particularly strong in Mississippi, urging whites to reject the influence of Northern opinion and agitation. This independent attitude was profound enough in Tallahatchie County that it earned the nickname "The Freestate of Tallahatchie", according to a former sheriff, "because people here do what they damn well please", making the county often difficult to govern.
Tallahatchie County Sheriff Clarence Strider, who initially positively identified Till's body and stated that the case against Milam and Bryant was "pretty good", on September 3 announced his doubts that the body pulled from the Tallahatchie River was that of Till, who, he speculated, was probably still alive. Strider suggested that the recovered body had been planted by the NAACP: a cadaver stolen by T. R. M. Howard, who colluded to place Till's ring on it. Strider changed his account after the comments made in the press about the people of Mississippi, later saying, "The last thing I wanted to do was to defend those peckerwoods. But I just had no choice about it."
Bryant and Milam were indicted for murder. The grand jury's prosecuting attorney, Hamilton Caldwell, was not confident that he could get a conviction in a case of white violence against a black male accused of insulting a white woman. A local black paper was surprised at the indictment and praised the decision, as did the New York Times. The high-profile comments made in Northern newspapers and by the NAACP concerned the prosecuting attorney, Gerald Chatham; he worried that his office would not be able to secure a guilty verdict, despite their compelling evidence. Having limited funds, Bryant and Milam initially had difficulty finding attorneys to represent them, but five attorneys at a Sumner law firm offered their services pro bono. Collection jars were placed in stores and other public places in the Delta, eventually gathering $10,000 for the defense.
Trial
The town of Sumner in Tallahatchie County served as the venue for the trial as the body had been found there. Sumner had one boarding house; the small town was besieged by reporters from all over the country. David Halberstam called it "the first great media event of the civil rights movement". A reporter who had covered the trials of Bruno Hauptmann and Machine Gun Kelly remarked that this was the most publicity for any trial he had ever seen. No hotels were available for black visitors. Mamie Till Bradley arrived to testify and the trial also attracted black congressman Charles Diggs from Michigan. Bradley, Diggs, and several black reporters stayed at Howard's home in Mound Bayou. Located on a large lot and surrounded by Howard's armed guards, it resembled a compound. The day before the start of the trial, a young black man named Frank Young arrived to tell Howard he knew of two witnesses to the crime. Levi "Too Tight" Collins and Henry Lee Loggins were black employees of Leslie Milam, J. W.'s brother, in whose shed Till was beaten. Collins and Loggins were spotted with J. W. Milam, Bryant, and Till. The prosecution team was unaware of Collins and Loggins. Sheriff Strider, however, booked them into the Charleston, Mississippi jail to keep them from testifying.
The trial was held in September 1955, lasting for five days; and attendees remember the weather being very hot. The courtroom was filled to its 280-spectator capacity, and as a matter of course was racially segregated. Press from major national newspapers attended, including black publications; black reporters were made to sit segregated from the white press, farther from the jury. Sheriff Strider welcomed black spectators coming back from lunch with a cheerful, "Hello, Niggers!" Some visitors from the North found the court to be run with surprising informality. Jury members were allowed to drink beer on duty, and many white men in the audience wore handguns holstered to their belts.
--- ---
...

Read more from Source »

Related articles based on keyword density
Death of Freddie Gray Under US Police Custody ...
en.wikipedia.org 12/04/2015 Military
On April 12, 2015, Freddie Carlos Gray, Jr., a 25-year-old African-American man, was arrested by the Baltimore Police Department for possessing what t...View Details»

Pan Am Flight 103 explodes over Scotland, Dec. 21, 1988 - POLITICO...
politico.com 21/12/1988 History
By Andrew Glass 12/21/15 12:01 AM EST On this day in 1988, Pan Am Flight 103, a Boeing 747 en route to New York from London, exploded over Lockerbie,...View Details»

US Has Killed More Than 20 Million People in 37 “Victim Nations” Since...
popularresistance.org 09/11/2017 Military
By James A. Lucas Global Research, November 09, 2017 Popular Resistance 27 November 2015 First published in November 2015 After the catastrophic a...View Details»

10 Top Corporate Criminals of 2018 ...
globalexchange.org 20/05/2019 Politics
Each year, Global Exchange releases a “Top Corporate Criminals” list to highlight some of the world’s corporate worst-of-the-worst on issues like viol...View Details»

My Lai Massacre: The day US military slaughtered a village & tried to ...
1host2u.com 16/03/1968 History
The My Lai massacre was one of the most horrific incidents of violence committed against unarmed civilians during the Vietnam War. A company of Americ...View Details»


EOF