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One of the most notorious hate crimes in American history titles the prominent lynching of a young 14 year old boy in the Mississippi Delta of 1955. Emmett Till reportedly flirted with a white woman while purchasing candy at a grocery store. Soon after he was kidnapped by two white men, brutally murdered, and tossed away into the Tallahatchie River. The author Timothy B. Tyson conveys the message of this horrific event as a milestone in American history. In his book The Blood of Emmett Till he describes the heinous murder itself along with its unjust trial. Through the course of his book, Tyson explicates the meaning behind the lynching that provoked protests across the country, strengthened memberships against white supremacy, and inspired people to fight for Civil Rights.
Tyson is a civil rights historian, telling the story of an event that occurred over 50 years ago. In that time many articles and several books have been published; the lynching is well known. However, Tyson revised history and added more unknown details to the Till case. He separated himself from other authors by placing the only interview ever conducted with Carolyn Bryant, the woman who made the accusations that lead to the brutal and gory death of a young boy. In that interview, he uncovered some of the untruthful accounts told in the 1955 trial. He gained access to the murder trial transcript that had only been discovered in 2005.
The 1950’s was a time full of discrimination, white supremacy, and racism. The mindset of the white public and their ability to interact with blacks was unethical. In his book, Tyson introduced readers to what it was like being a colored person in the time period. In chapters 9 and 10 he discussed the political issues of public school integration with the Brown vs. Board of education case and blacks right to vote. People who had supported public school desegregation lost their jobs, insurance policies, and were even violently threatened until they gave up. Tyson reflected upon another murder case to illustrate the treatment of any defiant blacks. This was the story of George Lee, who was shot and killed as a result of not removing his name from the voter registration list. These small examples of inflammatory political issues served as the key setting to Tyson’s book as well as the Till murder.
Overall Tyson gave readers an impeccable inquiry into the well-known tragedy of Emmett Till. However in some places the organization and telling of the event felt off. Tyson had jumped around in the beginning of his book. In early chapters, Tyson covered the death of Till and then later he was introducing the story of Till’s birth and where he had grown up. The overall telling of Till’s life may have been better displayed if it was organized chronologically. Also, Tyson had the tendency to circle around the same information. It felt as if he was retelling a lot of the story. Lastly, in his book, Tyson told the story of Emmett Till and other events going on in the time period. The extra information helped to give a background around the Till case, however some of the commentary between the main event made the book difficult get through at times.
Tyson had an exceedingly well developed a central purpose in his book to distinguish that nothing Emmett Till ever did justified what had happened to him. He directly expressed this message to readers from the very first chapter when he revealed the false accusations and that very heavy statement from Carolyn Bryant herself. Tyson went into detail of how Emmett was raised and the morals he learned from his own mother. The boy overstepped some racial boundaries, but his brutal beating and death was not a fit justification for the smart talking and whistle that he gave a white woman. Tyson’s evocative description of Till’s body further connected readers to the lynching. One example is when described Emmett as “brutally beaten beyond recognition.”
When a colored person was killed at the hands of a white man it was often overlooked far beyond the public eye and even through the court systems. However the lynching of Emmett Till was one case that could not be ignored. Several times in his book, Tyson highlighted the significance that this race case held over the Civil Rights movement. The open casket funeral and the display of Till’s brutally beaten body was an eye opening experience for the public. Emmett Till had become the inspiration for change. That same year civil rights activist Rosa Parks had Emmett on her mind when she had refused to give up her seat to a white man on a public transportation bus. The case of Emmett Till is notorious for how it galvanized the spark of the already emerging Civil Rights movement.
Also, throughout his book Tyson included quotes from several people of opposing races that had further connected readers with the time period.
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