August 27, 2013

Am I Not Human? Emmett Till (1941-1955)

Emmitt Till was murdered on this day in 1955. Till was a 14-year-old African American boy who was beaten and shot to death by two white men. These men then threw the Till's mutilated body into the Tallahatchie River near Money, Mississippi. Young Till was killed for talking to and perhaps whistling at a white woman at a Mississippi grocery store. Later that year, Roy Bryant, whose wife Carolyn was the white woman at the store, and his half brother, J. W. Milam, were tried for Till's murder and acquitted by a jury of 12 white men.

In March, 2007, the FBI released a summary of its 8000 page report of its investigation of the murder of Emmett Till. This report also includes the 354 page transcript of the 1955 murder trial of J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant.

This gruesome photo of Emmett Till helped spark the civil rights movement. It demonstrated the brutality of southern violence towards African Americans, and created outrage across the nation. Emmett's mother, Mamie, insisted at his funeral that he be given an open-casket, so others could see what they had done to her boy.

The truth of what happened that night became public knowledge several months after the trial. William Bradford Huie, an Alabama journalist in Mississippi to report on the aftermath of the case, offered Bryant and Milam money to tell their story. Since the two could no longer be prosecuted for a crime of which they had already been acquitted, they gladly told for a fee of how they had beaten and killed young Till. Huie reported what the killers told him in Look magazine. Now publicly exposed as murderers, Bryant and Milam were ostracized by the community, and both moved elsewhere within a year. Emmett Till in death became a martyr for the civil rights movement, a symbol of the racial hatred African Americans had yet to overcome.

America has moved quantum leaps in terms of both civil and human rights since 1955. African Americans are no longer murdered for giving wolf whistles to white women. However, our gains are not guaranteed. All Americans need to be vigilant in protecting our national commitment to equality for all. All it will take for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing.

Roots of Humanity feels that each of us can fight against human rights abuses in the world. We simply need to do something. Protest. Meditate. Pray. In the case of bloggers ... we want you to blog on the 27th of each month. Just share information on behalf of our human siblings in all suffering areas who are either barred from communication by their governments, or lacking in technology to ask: Am I Not Human?
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Renee said...

His murder continues to haunt the Black community because it reminds us of how little we are valued. To this day we must still worry over our children when they leave our protective arms because the world does not seem them as the angels that they are.

Unknown said...

Renee - Amen...