On August 28, 1955, a 14-year-old black boy was brutally murdered by two white men while he visited with family members in Money, Miss. His name was Emmett Till, and he was a young charismatic boy who grew up in Chicago. Till came in contact with a white woman, Carolyn Bryant, at a local store. Bryant claimed he whistled and flirted with her.
Four days after meeting Bryant, Till was taken from the home of his uncle where he was visiting by two men, Bryant’s husband and half-brother. These men forced him into their car and took him to a shed where they beat him mercilessly. They made him carry a 75-pound cotton gin fan to the Tallahatchie River where they made him take off his clothes. They then continued the beating, even gouging out one of his eyes, and then shot him in the head.
They tied the fan around Till’s neck and threw his body into the river. Miraculously, the body was discovered three days later but could only be identified by a ring Till wore on his hand. The two men were tried and acquitted for Till’s murder, and justice was not served. The men later admitted to killing Till in a magazine interview, but could not be retried.
Till’s mother, Mamie, decided to have an open-casket funeral service, so the world could see what these men had done to her only son. Thousands attended the funeral service to honor the young boy who suffered needlessly, and to show support for the boy’s mother and family. It was a launching pad for the civil rights movement and is a story that will never be forgotten.
The world will never know what Till would have become, or how he would have been known had he lived. Author Timothy B. Tyson sought out to discover and uncover more of Till’s story to ensure it would never be lost in time. He wrote the book “The Blood of Emmett Till,” which is published by Simon & Schuster and is set to release January 31.
Timothy Tyson is an award-winning author and Senior Research Scholar at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. He is also Professor of American Studies at the University of Carolina. His book, “Blood Done Sign My Name,” has been given the distinction of finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Tyson serves on the North Carolina NAACP executive board, as well as the UNC Center for Civil Rights.
By reading and educating ourselves and younger generations about these stories where innocent lives were lost and civil rights were ignored, we give a voice to those who have none.
What books or stories have you read on civil rights? Let’s discuss here or on Twitter: @lcarterwriter.