Tag Archives: Emmitt Till

On This Day: The Murder Of Emmett Till

Throughout America’s sordid history, there have been many children murdered but the Murder in Money, Mississippi is the most infamous. It was this incident, the murder of a black child, fourteen year old Emmett Till that sparked the modern Civil Rights Movement. On August 28, 1955, Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old black boy from Chicago supposedly whistled at a white woman in a grocery store.

The crime sounded clarion calls for a nation to wake up – just look at the photo. Till’s mutilated corpse circulated around the country mainly because of John Johnson, who published the gruesome photographs in Jet magazine, a predominately African American publication. The photo drew intense public reaction.

Till didn’t understand or knew that he had broken an unwritten law of the Jim Crow South until three days later, when two white men dragged him from his bed in the dead of night, beat him brutally and then shot him in the head. That night the door to his grandfather’s house was thrown open, and Emmett was forced into a truck and driven away never again to be seen alive again. Till’s body was found swollen and disfigured in the Tallahatchie river three days after his abduction and only identified by his ring.

Till’s body was sent back to Chicago, where his mother insisted on leaving the casket open for the funeral and having people take photographs because she wanted people to see how badly Till’s body had been disfigured. This courageous mother was famously quoted as saying, “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby” and over 50,000 people came to view the body.

On the day he was buried, two men — the husband of the woman who had been whistled at and his half brother — were indicted of his murder, but the all white male jury from Money (some of whom actually participated in Till’s torture and execution) took only an hour to return ‘not guilty’ verdict. The verdict would have been quicker, remarked the grinning foreman, if the jury hadn’t taken a break for a soft drink on the way to the deliberation room. To add insult to injury, knowing that they would not be retrial, the two accused men sold their stories to LOOK Magazine and gleefully admitted to everything.

Elsewhere in Mississippi at the time things weren’t going terribly well for blacks either. Just before Till was murdered, two activists Rev. George Lee and Lamar Smith were shot dead for trying to exercise their rights to vote, and in shocking testimony to the lack of law and order, no one came forward to testify although both murders were committed in broad daylight.

1aThe next year, a former army sergeant, Clyde Kennard, tried to enroll at Mississippi South College in Hattiesburg and was sent away, but came back to ask again. For this ‘audacity’, university officials — not students, or mere citizens, but university officials — planted stolen liquor and a bag of stolen chicken feed in his car and had him arrested. Kennard died halfway into his seven year sentence.

But times were slowly a-changing: Brown vs. Board of Education was decided in 1954. Three months after the Till murder Rosa Parks would refuse to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Sit-ins and marches would follow, and soon the civil rights movement itself would be in full-swing. It’s been over sixty-years since the events of that fateful night, and I simply cannot find the words to describe this heinous crime that has yet to receive justice.

I’ll end by sharing these words by Maya Angelou: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

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Thanksgiving

2The history of America is littered with crimes against many nations and the people on its stolen land; from the massacres of the Native American’s under the guise of “Manifest Destiny” to the enslavement of people of African American descent. On a day that has nothing to do with being thankful, rather an economic celebration of one of America’s earliest crimes derived from one of history’s biggest lies. However, I am thankful to be alive but living for most black and poor people is a life very different from those of privilege!

This day should be rooted and derived from something like the Sermon on the Mount since America proclaims to be a Christian nation. It was said in that sermon that the first will be last, and the last will be first. It was also mentioned something about the least of thee. With regard to black people’s oppression and the near weekly murders at the hands of the police, we have been first at last for a long time and the least of thee. As we witness the uprisings across the nation and dare, I say around the world. The time is ripe to expose wrongs and make them right.

We hear the common mantra that this is a nation of laws to which they neglect to add that those laws were written for and by white people for the benefit of white people etched in and established by the Constitution. What I see, as a product of the 1960s, is that “we remain a nation of people living in a nation without a nationality and treated as such!” In short this means black people’s lives are of no value.

Just a little historical perspective here; we know black people and men, in particular, were lynched throughout the history of America. However, it was one particular incident in 1955 with the murder of Emmitt Till that sparked a revolution [Civil Rights Movement] that changed the world and improved the lives of every black person thereafter. In addition, the people of that day who had the courage to rise up against the system of injustice were young people. In fact, Dr. King was only in his mid-twenties.

Other more militant groups emerged when young people realized prayer and peacefully begging for the most basic human rights did not work nor has it ever. The system, police, and government destroyed those organizations except those whites control, which is most. I knew people, then as I see now, who says everything is fine, and there is no reason to express outwardly outrage. I’ll tell you why; silent is a more destructive force imposed on the mind of the hopeless and feeds the systemic oppression that will continue.

Fast forward to today with the murder of another child [17 years old] shot instantly without a chance. However, Mick Brown’s death has galvanized people like nothing since the murder of Emmitt Till. I admire the young people for standing up, rising up, and organizing against the travesties of police killings. They organize, today, much like the did in the 1960s against government sanctioned and the license for what they call “righteous kills” and abuses never any accountability.

I am thankful today that we have video cameras and that no long can they cover up killings, like they tried to do in Chicago. No longer can they tell people anything or half of the truths and expect the lies to be believed as truth or accepted. The protesters today are not your father’s protesters – these are the children born the philosophy of Malcolm X, Stokely, Rap Brown, and some with a little of Nat Turner in their blood. Not that of Martin or the organizations of the big six who sang “We Shall Overcome” more than fifty years ago because this generation sees that “We Have Not Overcome”!

As you celebrate this day, that pays homage to terrorism, which represent the slaughter of millions of the native people that continue. Stop for a moment and say, “enough is enough” of the terror inflicted upon black people and say this murderous assault upon our people and children must stop. Or next time it could be you or your child. Take a stand and remember what Nat Turner said minutes before he was hung – “They Crucified Jesus didn’t they”.

So let me wish each of you a Happy Savage Day and say what I am thankful for today is that this generation’s devotion and willingness to seek justice by any means necessary and yes I know Black Lives Matter! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

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