Although racially motivated murders had occurred throughout the South for decades, the circumstances surrounding Emmett Till grew beyond the details of a 14-year-old boy who had unknowingly defied a severe social caste system. About the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0812970470/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0812970470&linkCode=as2&tag=tra0c7-20&linkId=7f4d42297ef26209054844d8bb0193a6
Till’s murder brought considerations about segregation, law enforcement, relations between the North and South, the social status quo in Mississippi, the NAACP, White Citizens’ Councils, and the Cold War, all of which were played out in a drama staged in newspapers all over the U.S. and abroad. When Till went missing, a three-paragraph story was printed in the Greenwood Commonwealth and quickly picked up by other Mississippi newspapers. They reported on his death when the body was found, and the next day, when a picture of him his mother had taken the previous Christmas showing them smiling together appeared in the Jackson Daily News and Vicksburg Evening Post, editorials and letters to the editor were printed expressing shame at the people who had caused Till’s death. One read, “Now is the time for every citizen who loves the state of Mississippi to ‘Stand up and be counted’ before hoodlum white trash brings us to destruction.” The letter said that Negroes were not the downfall of Mississippi society, but whites like those in White Citizens’ Councils that condoned violence.
Till’s body was clothed, packed in lime, and put in a pine coffin and prepared for burial. It may have been embalmed while in Mississippi. Mamie Till Bradley demanded that the body be sent to Chicago; she later stated that she endeavored to halt an immediate burial in Mississippi and called several local and state authorities in Illinois and Mississippi to make sure that her son was returned to Chicago. A doctor did not examine Till post-mortem.
Mississippi’s governor, Hugh L. White, deplored the murder, asserting that local authorities should pursue a “vigorous prosecution”. He sent a telegram to the national offices of the NAACP promising a full investigation and assuring them “Mississippi does not condone such conduct”. Delta residents, both black and white, also distanced themselves from Till’s murder, finding the circumstances abhorrent. Local newspaper editorials denounced the murderers without question. Leflore County Deputy Sheriff John Cothran stated, “The white people around here feel pretty mad about the way that poor little boy was treated, and they won’t stand for this.”
Soon, however, discourse about Till’s murder became more complex. Robert B. Patterson, executive secretary of the segregationist White Citizens’ Council, lamented Till’s death by reiterating that racial segregation policies were in force for blacks’ safety and that their efforts were being neutralized by the NAACP. In response, NAACP executive secretary Roy Wilkins characterized the incident as a lynching and stated that Mississippi was trying to maintain white supremacy through murder, and “there is in the entire state no restraining influence of decency, not in the state capital, among the daily newspapers, the clergy, nor any segment of the so-called better citizens”. Mamie Till Bradley told a reporter that she would seek legal aid to help law enforcement find her son’s killers and that the State of Mississippi should share the financial responsibility. She was misquoted; it came out as “Mississippi is going to pay for this”.
The A. A. Rayner Funeral Home in Chicago received Till’s body, and upon arrival, Bradley insisted on viewing it to make a positive identification, later stating that the stench from it was noticeable two blocks away. She decided to have an open casket funeral, saying “There was just no way I could describe what was in that box. No way. And I just wanted the world to see.” Tens of thousands of people lined the street outside the mortuary to view Till’s body, and days later thousands more attended his funeral at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ. Photographs of his mutilated corpse circulated around the country, notably appearing in Jet magazine and The Chicago Defender, both black publications, and drew intense public reaction. According to The Nation and Newsweek, Chicago’s black community was “aroused as it has not been over any similar act in recent history”. Till was buried on September 6 in Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois.
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