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Emmett till and His Influence on The Civil Rights Movement

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Emmett was a huge cultural influence on the Civil Rights Movement and for the history of African American freedom too. Emmitt Louis Till was a 14 year old African American boy born on July 25, 1941. He was born in Chicago, IL at Cook County Public Hospital. Emmet also known as Bobo, grew up in Chicago in a middle class black neighborhood. Chicago isn’t far from Mississippi but it has a huge cultural difference. Money, Mississippi is a very rural and is a lot more conservative and they decided to go there. Chicago on the other hand is very urban and it’s a big city where people are more open-minded. Then, Emmit decided to visit his family in Money, Mississippi and stay down there for the whole summer. “Till used to go to a school at McCosh Elementary School before he headed down for his summer vacation”. “Emmett’s mother took him down to get a train down to Mississippi on August 21st, 1955 after she gave him his father’s ring before she saw him the last time”. “His mother Mamie Till, was a single mother taking care of an only child”. “Emmett never met his father, Mamie got divorced from him in 1942”. Till’s father eventually got executed for “willful misconduct” while he was serving in the war in Italy.

“Emmett stayed with his great uncle, Moses Wright down in Mississippi. He spent some time working in the cotton harvest during that summer”. Then, “on August 24th, Till went with a group of teens some friends and some family to Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Store after working just to hang out and that’s when Tills life took a major turn for the worse”. We don’t know exactly what happened that lead to this incident but there was a woman in the store and he apparently whistled at a woman, touched her hand and waist, and flirted with a white woman named Carolyn Bryant. “Emmett’s cousin described the whistle as being a wolf like and that’s when his cousin realized it was a big problem towards social conduct between blacks and whites”. Carolyn was apparently the cashier at the family owned store but this happened when she was about to leave the store for her brake. One kid said this was a dare from one of the other kids when they spoke in court (Ray Michael). When he got home he never mentioned anything to his parents and just moved on with his business.

A few days later on August 28th, Carolyn’s husband Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam broke into Till’s uncle’s house at 2:30 AM and took Till while pointing a gun at his head. After they took him out of his house they beat him up and gouged out one of his eyes. Later that day the two white men took Till down to the Tallahatchie River where they shot him in the head which immediately killed him. After Till died the two men tied him up to a large metal fan with barbed wire to dump him into a lake (Ray Michael). This boy was murdered so brutally that they couldn’t make out the person after they found his lifeless body at the bottom of a river. Moses Wright called the police to report a kidnapping soon after he was taken out of the house and they started searching. On August 31st, 1955, Emmett’s body was found eight miles down the river not even recognizable, they find out it was Till after seeing his father’s ring on his finger. A man named Robert Hodges found the victim’s feet sticking out of the stream while he was down fishing. On September 2nd, Till’s body was shipped by train to Chicago where his mother is waiting. This was a big importance to the Civil Rights Movement so Mamie Till decided to have an open casket funeral for five days to show the world what happened to her son. Thousands came to the funeral looking at who once was a 14 year old boy going to school and having the time of his life to now having a brutally destroyed face and body, now not being able to grow into a man or father because of these two horrible men.

The trial of Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam started on September 19th, 1955 with the first witness being Moses Wright. The jurors where supposedly an unbiased, all-white, and all-male jury in the 1950’s when the people who committed the crime are white males killing an African American so I simply don’t believe they were unbiased. The other witness called to the stand was an undertaker, a police identification officer, Mamie Till and surprise witness Willie Reed. “Willie had a very specific story stating that at 6 A.M. there was a truck with four white men and three African Americans in the back of the tuck till was taken into” (Professor Douglas O. Linder). These witnesses made it fairly obvious that Bryant and Milam committed murder and abduction crimes. The next set of witnesses were Carolyn Bryant, Sheriff H.C Strider, H.D Malone, and lastly a white physician to convince the jury that they were not guilty. After all they got their chance to speak it was finally the moment people have been waiting for, from the people in the room to people listening to it on the radio to reading it in the paper, the verdict. They stated that the defendant was not guilty of murder and abduction and they go off Scott Free which started a revolution in the Civil Rights Movement. This has left African Americans infuriated and whites were beginning to believe they wouldn’t get in trouble. “African Americans were now boycotting Bryant’s Grocery Store and the boycotts eventually shut down the store before J.W. Milam and Bryant died from cancer. Some other people who testified have since grazed the face of death with many assassination attempts”.

After the trial this changed Mississippi in many ways. “Two months after the verdict, a white man went into a gas station and told the African American cashier that the prices were to high and the man told him that he wouldn’t lower the prices so the white man killed him right on the spot because he didn’t like the price. Later, they had a trial for that but found the defendant not guilty once again which led to 21% of the African American population in Mississippi to leave the state”. About 50 years later “in 2004, they spent three years reopening the case of Emmett Till where not only did they clarify the body but also concluded that the gun used way a .45 Caliber gun”. After they both died the police found some tapes with Milam stating that he killed Emmett and was going to take him to the hospital but his injuries were too severe that he wouldn’t survive so they just killed him and dumped them in the river.

This has been a tragedy for many years and it has been a great impact on Civil Rights and freedom today. If this didn’t happen there would still be murder trials like this going on all around the U. S. And now his casket can be seen among many in a famous museum. When the case was closed in 2007 “Till was put in a new casket and his old one was placed in storage in the Burr Oak cemetery in Alpis, Illinois” (Ray Michael). But recently, “Till’s family has been so gracious enough to give away his casket to The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D. C so you can go see anytime you’d like”. The store is now in ruins, it has been destroyed after it was left alone for many years. They have also a Museum now in Mississippi for Emmett and also an Interpretive Center in Sumner that have photographs and artifacts of Emmett (Douglas O. Linder). Till has also been remembered in many songs and movies. “For example, one of the most famous songs is by Bob Dylan which was written in 1962 to make a turning point in civil rights history” (Professor Douglas O. Linder).

I think this incident was devastating for many people around the U.S. I cannot believe someone can be so cruel to another human being, especially when it’s over skin color. People were segregated throughout the Civil Rights Movement from different schools to different water fountains. I’m glad that African Americans embrace and told their story about gaining their rights, I just want everyone to be equal. The human race isn’t defined as color, gender, or sexual preferences we are all unique and it’s amazing to look at the differences and also not be hateful towards it. We used to be a world where everyone was close minded and traditional but the more I look around and hear about what happened in the past I realize that we are slowly opening up our minds to many new things in the world. Being willing to learn new cultures is a very good asset to have for many jobs and opportunities. The world turns every day and as it turns it changes and becomes different every day in a good or bad way. We just learn from our mistakes and move on from there which affects everyone and we can tell how time has changed compared to the 50’s or just any decade really. The diversity of our world should bring us closer together not tear us apart but sooner or later people will learn how to overcome our differences and celebrate for who we our as a society.

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