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History Repeats itself. The Murder of Chicago child that sparked Civil rights movement was a result of no indictment. The story of Emmett Till

History

The Story of Emmett Till. 1955 

1393538790000-Emmett-TillFourteen-year-old Emmett Till was visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi, on August 24, 1955, when he reportedly flirted with a white cashier at a grocery store. Four days later, two white men kidnapped Till, beat him and shot him in the head. The men were tried for murder, but an all-white, male jury acquitted them. Till’s murder and open casket funeral galvanized the emerging Civil Rights Movement.

 

 

 

Background

Emmett Louis Till was born on July 25, 1941, in Chicago, Illinois, the only child of Louis and Mamie Till. Till never knew his father, a private in the United States Army during World War II. Mamie and Louis Till separated in 1942, and three years later, the family received word from the Army that the soldier had been executed for “willful misconduct” while serving in Italy.

Emmett Till’s mother was, by all accounts, an extraordinary woman. Defying the social constraints and discrimination she faced as an African-American woman growing up in the 1920s and ’30s, Mamie Till excelled both academically and professionally. She was only the fourth black student to graduate from suburban Chicago’s predominantly white Argo Community High School, and the first black student to make the school’s “A” Honor Roll. While raising Emmett Till as a single mother, she worked long hours for the Air Force as a clerk in charge of confidential files.

Emmett Till, who went by the nickname Bobo, grew up in a thriving, middle-class black neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. The neighborhood was a haven for black-owned businesses, and the streets he roamed as a child were lined with black-owned insurance companies, pharmacies and beauty salons as well as nightclubs that drew the likes of Duke Ellington and Sarah Vaughan. Those who knew Till best described him as a responsible, funny and infectiously high-spirited child. He was stricken with polio at the age of 5, but managed to make a full recovery, save a slight stutter that remained with him for the rest of his life.

With his mother often working more than 12-hour days, Till took on his full share of domestic responsibilities from a very young age. “Emmett had all the house responsibility,” his mother later recalled. “I mean everything was really on his shoulders, and Emmett took it upon himself. He told me if I would work, and make the money, he would take care of everything else. He cleaned, and he cooked quite a bit. And he even took over the laundry.”

Till attended the all-black McCosh Grammar School. His classmate and childhood pal, Richard Heard, later recalled, “Emmett was a funny guy all the time. He had a suitcase of jokes that he liked to tell. He loved to make people laugh. He was a chubby kid; most of the guys were skinny, but he didn’t let that stand in his way. He made a lot of friends at McCosh.”

In August 1955, Till’s great uncle, Moses Wright, came up from Mississippi to visit the family in Chicago. At the end of his stay, Wright was planning to take Till’s cousin, Wheeler Parker, back to Mississippi with him to visit relatives down South, and when Till, who was just 14 years old at the time, learned of these plans, he begged his mother to let him go along. Initially, Till’s mother was opposed to the idea. She wanted to take a road trip to Omaha, Nebraska, and tried to convince her son to join her with the promise of open-road driving lessons. But Till desperately wanted to spend time with his cousins in Mississippi, and in a fateful decision that would have grave impact on their lives and the course of American history, Till’s mother relented and let him go.

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The two men that murdered Emmett Till celebrating no indicting with their wives. 1955

Emmett Till Murder

On August 19, 1955—the day before Till left with his uncle and cousin for Mississippi—Mamie Till gave her son his late father’s signet ring, engraved with the initials “L.T.” The next day she drove her son to the 63rd Street station in Chicago. They kissed goodbye, and Till boarded a southbound train headed for Mississippi. It was the last time they ever saw each other.

Three days after arriving in Money, Mississippi—on August 24, 1955—Emmett Till and a group of teenagers entered Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market to buy refreshments after a long day picking cotton in the hot afternoon sun. What exactly transpired inside the grocery store that afternoon will never be known. Till purchased bubble gum, and some of the kids with him would later report that he either whistled at, flirted with or touched the hand of the store’s white female clerk—and wife of the owner—Carolyn Bryant.

Four days later, at approximately 2:30 a.m. on August 28, 1955, Roy Bryant, Carolyn’s husband, and his half brother J.W. Milam kidnapped Till from Moses Wright’s home. They then beat the teenager brutally, dragged him to the bank of the Tallahatchie River, shot him in the head, tied him with barbed wire to a large metal fan and shoved his mutilated body into the water. Moses Wright reported Till’s disappearance to the local authorities, and three days later, his corpse was pulled out of the river. Till’s face was mutilated beyond recognition, and Wright only managed to positively identify him by the ring on his finger, engraved with his father’s initials—”L.T.”

Impact on Civil Rights

“I thought about Emmett Till, and I couldn’t go back [to the back of the bus].” — Rosa Parks

Coming only one year after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education mandated the end of racial segregation in public schools, Emmett Till’s death provided an important catalyst for the American Civil Rights Movement. One hundred days after Till’s murder, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on an Alabama city bus, sparking the yearlong Montgomery Bus Boycott. Nine years later, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing many forms of racial discrimination and segregation. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act, outlawing discriminatory voting practices, was passed.

Article Source: www.biography.com

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