The brutal murder of Emmett Till was a pivotal event in the early days of the American Civil Rights Movement; for some reason, the same people who had no problem with black adults being killed for no good reason went even whiter when the same crimes were committed against a child...
While visiting relatives in Mississippi, the 14-year-old Chicagoan whistled at Carolyn Bryant, a white woman, referring to her casually as 'baby'. According to his relatives, he was always being funny like that; Mrs. Bryant, on the other hand, was not amused. Clearly, being called baby by a child meant that child deserved to die (provided, of course, that child was black.)
Three days later - on this day in 1955 - Bryant's husband Roy, 24, and his 36 year-old half-brother J. W. Milam, kidnapped Emmett Till from his uncle's house. They took him to an abandoned warehouse, where he was beaten, shot, and had his eyes gouged out. The murderers then proceeded to dump his body in the Tallahatchie River, a 75-pound cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire. He was found three days later.
Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam were later acquitted following less than an hour of deliberation by a jury of their peers - 12 white men.
For his funeral Emmett Till's mother Mamie had to fight for an open casket, and she got it; she wanted the world to see what had been done to her baby, and they did. The photo at left was widely reprinted at the time, and caused considerable outrage, fortunately more of it aimed at the killers than the editors.
Mamie Till-Mobley died in 2003; click on the top photo for her obituary.
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