The kidnapping and murder of Emmett Till is famous as a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement. Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old Black teenager from Chicago, was visiting family in a small town in Mississippi during the summer of 1955. Likely showing off to friends, Emmett allegedly whistled at a white woman. Three days later his brutally beaten body was found floating in the Tallahatchie River. The extreme violence of the crime put a national spotlight on the Jim Crow ways of the South, and many Americans-Black and white-were further outraged at the speedy trial of the white murderers. Although the two white men were tried and acquitted by an all-white jury, they later bragged publicly about the crime. It was a galvanizing moment for Black leaders and ordinary citizens, including such activists as Rosa Parks. In clear, vivid detail Chris Crowe investigates the before-and-aftermath of the crime, as well as the dramatic court trial, and places it into the context of the nascent Civil Rights Movement.
With lively narrative and abundantly illustrated with forty fascinating contemporaneous photographs, this impressive work of nonfiction brings fresh insight to the case in a manner that will be accessible and eye-opening for teenagers and adults alike.
Crowe (Mississippi Trial, 1955) revisits the subject of his debut novel, this time as nonfiction, with an even more searing impact. He builds a strong argument that "the outrage that followed [Emmett's] death and the acquittal of his murderers finally launched the movement to combat racism in the United States." The opening scene, reconstructed from court statements and documents, tells how 14-year-old Emmett Till was taken from his great-uncle's Mississippi home, where the boy was visiting from Chicago, to be killed by two white men. Emmett's crime: he had allegedly whistled at and made `ugly remarks' to a white woman" in a 1955 segregated South where whites were still bristling from the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. The narrative then slows a bit to paint the historical scene, but quickly gains momentum again as Crowe compellingly describes Emmett's perspective, coming from an experience of comparative freedom in the north, as he entered the world of his southern relatives, thus setting a backdrop for tensions to unfold. Striking photographs illustrate an era of contradictions, such as an all-American boy brandishing a sign bearing a racist slogan. The acts of bravery may impress readers most, especially the decision by Maud Till Bailey, Emmett's mother, to open his casket and "Let the people see what they did to my boy," and his Uncle Mose Wright taking the stand to identify the white defendants (immediately thereafter, he had to flee Mississippi or risk being murdered himself). Crowe pays powerful tribute to a boy whose untimely death spurred a national chain of events. Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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May 25, 2003
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