Emmett Till was a 14 year old boy from the southside of Chicago. He ventured to rural Mississippi the summer on 1955 to visit a relative. When in a store, he was rumored to have flirted with a white female cashier. Four days later, the cashier's husband and his half brother kidnapped Emmett at gunpoint, mutilated his body, tied him to a metal fan with a length of barbed wire and dumped him in the river. In fact, the body was so mutilated that the only way they could identify the body was by the ring his mother had given him days before. This shows that even a rumor of a black person doing that to a white woman is enough to get lynched.
It Gets Worse...
The kidnappers went on trial 2 weeks after the murder. Even though there were witnesses to positively identify them as their killers, the all-white jury deliberated for less than an hour before stating a verdict of not guilty. Many people around the country were outraged by the verdict and because the state decided not to indict them on kidnapping. The case brought showed the country just how brutal the Jim Crow Laws were in the south.
This is a photo from the trial on September 23, 1955.
How Did They Torture Him?
His assailants–the white woman’s husband and her brother–made Emmett carry a 75-pound cotton-gin fan to the bank of the Tallahatchie River and ordered him to take off his clothes. The two men then beat him nearly to death, gouged out his eye, shot him in the head, and then threw his body, tied to the cotton-gin fan with barbed wire, into the river. According to Emmett's mother, "when people saw what had happened to my son, men stood up who had never stood up before." This quote details how truly brutal the lynching was.
This is the head of his grave in Chicago.
Reactions from the Case
- "The little nigger asked for it and got precisely what was coming to him." (Sept. 11, 1955)
- "We are convinced that the brutal and savage lynching of Emmett Till in Mississippi is part of the lynch hysteria being whipped up in the South to impede the desegregation of the public school system as decreed by the Supreme Court." (Sept. 1, 1955)
- "How long must we wait for the Federal Government to act? Whenever a crisis arises involving our lives or our rights we look to Washington hopefully for help. It seldom comes. For too long it has been the device, as it was in the Till case, for the President to refer such matters to the Department of Justice. And usually, the Department of Justice seems more devoted to exploring its lobos for reasons why it can't offer protection of a Negro's life or rights"
This photo is of one of Till's relatives. She is visibly hysterical about the situation.
Overall, this case gave us a good insight on just how racist people in the south were