Summarize what the Emmett Till case. How do you think this case affected the developing Civil Rights Movement? What is a movement? (use quotes)
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Emmett Till grew up in a middle-class neighborhood on the South Side. After his great uncle visited from Mississippi in 1955 when Emmett was 14, he planned on taking Emmett's cousin Wheeler Parker back with him on his return to Mississippi.
When Emmett heard that his uncle was taking his cousin back with him to visit relatives in Mississippi, he wanted to accompany them despite his mother's objections.
One day while he was in Money, Mississippi, Emmett (nicknamed Bobo) stood outside a country store with his cousins and some friends as they joked with him. He was known for his humorous nature and his pranks.
Bobo bragged about his white girlfriend. He showed the boys a picture of a white girl in his wallet; and to their jeers of disbelief, he boasted of success with her. [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/till/sfeature/sf_look_confession.html]
What happened next is disputed. According to some sources, Emmett jokingly asked the white woman behind the store counter for a date, not understand the danger such an action posed in Mississippi. Till's cousin claimed that no such conversation ever happened, an account which was later corroborated by an anonymous source.
The woman behind the counter, Carolyn Bryant, claimed that Emmett did much more. She said that he touched her and made lewd advances. Then, as he walked out, he "wolf-whistled at her." These accusations were extremely damaging coming from a white woman in the Jim Crow South. The men who killed Emmett claimed that they were just going to "whip him and chase him back yonder." But, according to their account, he refused to be intimidated by them. One of his killers, J. W. Milam said in a magazine interview, "What else could I do? No use lettin' him get no bigger." [ Look magazine]
"Big Milam," as he was called, was a friend of Roy Bryant, Carolyn's husband. When Roy Bryant returned from out of town, he heard the "talk" about what had happened (his wife had not told him). According to Look magazine,
"Once Roy Bryant knew, in his environment, in the opinion of most white people around him, for him to have done nothing would have marked him for a coward and a fool."
Bryant talked to Milam, a veteran who served "in the Patton manner." Milam picked Bryant up and they went to Wright's house where Emmett was staying. The men took Emmett away from the house at gunpoint and made him lie down in the back of a truck. They drove for a long ways with him because they were trying to find a place that had a large gorge. Hoping to stand him near this gorge, they planned on frightening him by letting him see where he could fall after they pistol-whipped him.
They could not find this location, however. According to the kilers, Emmett was not afraid and talked back to them as they were beating him. Clearly, Emmett's resilience disturbed Milam, who said,
"We were never able to scare him. They had just filled him so full of that poison that he was hopeless."
Unfortunately for Emmett, this fearlessness apparently infuriated the cruel men. They drove to a cotton gin and stole a discarded fan. Then they took Emmett to the other side of a bridge that crossed the Tallahatchie River. There, they shot him in the head. Tying Emmett's neck to the 74-pound fan with barbed wire, they threw his body into the river. Later, two boys who went fishing discovered his body because his feet stuck out of the water.
A Tallahatchie County grand jury indicted Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam for the murder and kidnapping of Emmett Till. The trial began on September 1, 1955; if convicted, the men would face the death penalty.
Although three African-American witnesses were called, and they testified that they had seen and heard Milam whipping the someone in the Milam barn, the sheriff of the county testified that the boy's body that was found in the river had been there ten to fifteen days. An embalmer testified that the body was "beyond recognition." On September 23, 1955, an all-white, all-male jury returned a "Not Guilty" verdict.
Afterwards, there were thousands of people--mostly Northerners--who attended rallies in protest of this case.
Emmett's mother had an open casket at his funeral so that people could see what was done to her son. His violent murder incensed many people and stoked the fires of the Civil Rights Movement. Emmett was clearly a victim of racism since he was targeted solely on Mrs. Bryant's accusation that he violated racist Jim Crow law.
In 2004 the Justice Department reopened the Till case and the body was exhumed and autopsied with a positive identification of Emmett Till.