The Murder of Emmett Till {Coffee and Crime}

This past week has been eye-opening to say the least for all of us. The death of George Floyd has sparked an outrage among the population about an issue that is horrifying to even exist in 2020 – but it does.

I discussed in my previous post some of my thoughts, feelings and ways you can help; however since then I have been educating myself a lot more, watching, reading and listening as much as I can, and I will continue to support this movement and speak about it.

I have also decided to leave a link at the bottom of all of my posts to the black lives matter website. I urge you to go and sign petitions, donate and educate yourself about the mountainous issue of racism, because the only way that it can be eradicated is if we all stand together and make a difference.

I may start to upload some regular content again in the coming weeks, but please do not doubt that I will continue speaking up and dedicating posts to raising awareness. It only seemed fitting that as today would be the beginning of the ‘Coffee and Crime’ series, I would mention one of the catalyst cases for the Civil Rights Movement, the murder of Emmett Till.

Emmett Till

This case deals with lynching which is defined as “to put to death, especially by hanging, by mob action and without legal authority.” It became popularised in the late 1800s and early 1900s but is now considered a felony in most places.

Emmett Till was a brightly-spirited boy who grew up in South Chicago during the 1940s and 50s, possessing a charismatic persona through his love for pranks, basketball and stepping up for responsibility while his mother worked 12 hour days to support them, “He cleaned and cook quite a bit. And he even took over the laundry.”

His positive spirit remained despite being majorly without his father who was discovered as being unfaithful to Mamie (Emmett’s mother) when Emmett was barely one year old. Not only that, but he proceeded to abuse her through methods such as choking in spite of the court orders for him to stay away. He was given an ultimatum to go to jail or join the army so was out of Emmett’s life until it was discovered in 1945 that he had been executed for the rape and murder of an Italian woman. In addition, Till also developed polio at five years old which left him with a permanent stutter.

Emmett and Mamie

At 14 years old (1955), Emmett’s uncle visited him and told him of plans to go to Money, Mississippi with one of his cousins and Emmett begged to go. After protests from his mother, who had planned to take him to Nebraska, she finally agreed to let him go, but warned him of the contrasting lifestyle of Mississippi to Chicago and that he had to act appropriately.

What happened next is unclear as there were many different stories; however the ‘believed’ one at the time led to a tragedy that is utterly unacceptable.

On the 24th of August 1955, Emmett, his cousin Curtis Wright and a few friends skipped church and visited a store owned by the young white couple, Roy and Carolyn Bryant. Allegedly, Emmett had a picture in his new wallet of a white girl and was boasting about how he had a white girlfriend, so his friends dared him to go up to Carolyn and flirt with her. He was accused of wolf-whistling, harassing her by touching her hand and following her, and calling her ‘baby’.

Carolyn and Roy Bryant’s store

Four days later, Roy Bryant and his half brother came to the home of Emmett’s uncle, Mose Wright, where he was staying and abducted him, taking him in their truck. They pistol-whipped him, knocked him unconscious and took him to a barn to kill him, where screams were heard by a man named Willie Reed.

Mose waited and waited, but when Emmett didn’t come back, he knew something was wrong. After an unsuccessful search that night, Wright didn’t find Till’s body until a three days later when two boys who were fishing found his body.

The photo of Emmett’s body is gruesome, so I won’t include it here. However, if you want to have a look: click this link.

Emmett was nude, one of his eyes were dislodged and so were one of his ears was mutilated. There was evidence of beatings, particularly around the hips; and he had a metal fan digging in that had been tied around his neck. The body was completely out of shape, and the only way that Mose recognised Emmett was through an initialled ring that had belonged to his father, Louis Till.

As you can imagine, this brought an outrage and major publicity among the media and the public, although lynching had occurred frequently throughout this time period. The murderers were arrested and put on trial, however what happened next honestly just reiterates how much of an issue racism is…

The trial took place in Summer, Mississippi September 1955 and lasted for five days. Ironically, the town’s slogan was “a good place to raise a boy” – clearly not. During this time, if a black person tried to question or prosecute a white person they would be killed, but this may have been one of the first times it didn’t happen – but that sort of aggression should even exist so it shouldn’t have been such a revelation.

Emmett Till’s court trial: blacks were even segregated here.

The jury proceeded to question the reliability of the body belonging to Emmett Till and if he was even dead?

After a mere 67 minutes of discussion, the jury concluded that Roy and Milam were not guilty, and they wouldn’t have taken so long if they hadn’t stopped for a drink. The murderers would do no time in jail.

The whites celebrated and the blacks were defeated once again.

If you think that this is horrific, it turns out that from a relatively recent interview (2017) with Carolyn Bryant, Emmett Till wasn’t ‘sexually crude’ to her in the store that day. In 2004 an investigation was carried out where his body was exhumed for an autopsy as his long-missing file transcript was discovered by the FBI. However, they decided not to charge Carolyn or anyone else as an accomplice to the murder. Till’s cousin was glad to receive at least a little bit of satisfaction with Bryant’s confession, “It’s important to people understanding how the word of a white person against a black person was law, and a lot of black people lost their lives because of it. It really speaks to history, it shows what black people went through in those days.”

Justice wasn’t served for Emmett Till, but the pure outrage was one of the main catalysts for the Civil Rights Movement – Black people would not stand for this any longer…

Carolyn Bryant

This is only one of the thousands upon thousands of cases concerning racism that should have never happened because of the colour of someone’s skin. Emmett Till was only 14 when he was murdered because of a twisted story and a prejudiced courtroom. This may have happened more than 60 years ago, but it doesn’t change the fact that this sort of behaviour is wrong and it still exists today, even if you think that it’s not as bad. Police brutality, murders and jail time are still often unfairly handed to black people as we have seen frequently in the news, particularly over the last few days.

Emmett Till didn’t receive justice, but we can make this a better world by standing up for cases like this in 2020 and become allies.

Please visit the Black Lives Matter website here and see what you can do to help.

I really hope you found this interesting to read. Do you have any cases that you would like me to cover next? How have you been educating yourself this week? Let me know!

14 thoughts on “The Murder of Emmett Till {Coffee and Crime}

  1. I actually learned about this case in my Crime and the Media class. Tragic and infuriating… I was reminded of it again in the Netflix documentary 13th, have you seen it? I saw something today that said BLM is “not a moment, it’s a movement,” which really resonated with me. Also, I love your clever name for “Coffee and Crime.”

    Miles of smiles,
    Grace

    gracefulrags.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember being taught about it a little bit in one class when I started high school and it’s stuck with me ever since. I actually did watch 13th and I learned a lot about the corrupt prison system in America. I also watched ‘When they see us’ which was directed by the same person and it was incredible but very heavy – i would really recommend it:)
      Thank you so much for reading and I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Like

    1. Thank you for reading, I think in my next coffee and Crime post I’m going to cover another case because there are so so many that need to be brought to light so as people can sort of see the seriousness of racism.

      Liked by 1 person

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