sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

May 5, 2005

will some sort of justice finally be served?
posted by soe 11:57 am

In the summer of 1955, a 14-year-old Chicago boy went down to Mississippi to visit family. He didn’t return alive.

Emmett Till was tortured and then killed by a mob, purportedly for whistling at a white woman clerk in a store. The woman’s husband and his half-brother were arrested, acquitted by an all-white jury, and then confessed in a magazine article to the heinous crime. Because of double-jeopardy (and a complicit judicial system that seems unwilling to have found subsequent, alternative charges), the two men remained unpunished.

My guess is that Emmett Till’s story was, although sad and horrifying, not particularly remarkable. But he did have a remarkable mother, Mamie, who went to court to get her son’s corpse back from Mississippi authorities, smashed open the casket herself with a hammer when the funeral director refused to go against a police order not to open the padlocked box, and then demanded an open casket funeral for her son. The images are stark and moving. I cannot imagine remaining unchanged after seeing them.

Yesterday, the FBI announced their plan to exhume Till’s body from its grave site in Chicago and conduct an autopsy. They believe that Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam (both now dead) had 14 accomplices, six of whom still may be alive and who could still be prosecuted under Mississippi state law.

Bob Dylan wrote “The Death of Emmett Till” in 1963. It ends:

“But if all of us folks that thinks alike, if we gave all we could give,
We could make this great land of ours a greater place to live.”

May we finally show some greatness in this case and convict those who perpetrated the crimes.

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