Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Black History Month: MURDER OF EMMETT TILL

Emmett Till was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. When he was 14, he was sent to Mississippi to spend the summer with his uncle. Because of his Northern upbringing, Till was not accustomed to the racial taboos of the segregated South; he bragged to his Southern black friends that in Chicago he even had a white girlfriend. These unbelieving friends dared him to enter a store and ask a white woman for a date. Inside, Till hugged Carol Bryant's waist and squeezed her hand, then whistled at her as his friends rushed him away.

On August 28, 1955, Carol Bryant's husband, Roy, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, abducted Till from his uncle's home. Three days later, his naked, beaten, decomposed body was found in the Tallahatchie River; he had been shot in the head. The two white men were tried one month later by an all-white jury, and despite the fact that they admitted abducting Till, they were acquitted because the body was too mangled to be positively identified.

Till's murder became a rallying point for the Civil Rights Movement. Photographs of his open casket were reprinted across the country, and protests were organized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and such leaders as W. E. B. Du Bois. The public outrage over the injustice of the trial helped ensure that Congress included a provision for federal investigations of civil rights violations in the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

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