I am reading about Emmett Till following reading a poem by Cornelius Eady. A very interesting story — of a 14 year black boy being murdered for flirting with a white woman. Here is first the poem, and then some info from Wikpedia:
Emmett Till’s Glass-Top Casket (by Corenelius Eady)
By the time they cracked me open again, topside, abandoned in a tool-shed, I had become another kind of nest. Not many people connect possums with Chicago,
but this is where the city ends, after all, and I float still, after the footfalls fade and the roots bloom around us. The fact was, everything that worked for my young man
worked for my new tenants. The fact was, he had been gone for years. They lifted him from my embrace, and I was empty, ready. That’s how the possums found me, friend,
dry-docked, a tattered mercy hull. Once I held a boy who didn’t look like a boy. When they finally remembered, they peeked through my clear top. Then their wild surprise.
Emmett Louis Till
(July 25, 1941 – August 28, 1955) was an African-American boy who was murdered in Mississippi
at the age of 14 after reportedly flirting with a white woman. Till was from Chicago, Illinois
, visiting his relatives in Money, Mississippi
, in the Mississippi Delta
region, when he spoke to 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant, the married proprietor of a small grocery store there. Several nights later, Bryant’s husband Roy and his half-brother J. W. Milam arrived at Till’s great-uncle’s house where they took Till, transported him to a barn, beat him and gouged out one of his eyes, before shooting him through the head and disposing of his body in the Tallahatchie River
, weighting it with a 70-pound (32 kg) cotton gin
fan tied around his neck with barbed wire. His body was discovered and retrieved from the river three days later.
Till was returned to Chicago and his mother, who had raised him mostly by herself, insisted on a public funeral service with an open casket to show the world the brutality of the killing. Tens of thousands attended his funeral or viewed his casket and images of his mutilated body were published in black magazines and newspapers, rallying popular black support and white sympathy across the U.S. Intense scrutiny was brought to bear on the condition of black civil rights in Mississippi, with newspapers around the country critical of the state. Although initially local newspapers and law enforcement officials decried the violence against Till and called for justice, they soon began responding to national criticism by defending Mississippians, which eventually transformed into support for the killers.
The trial attracted a vast amount of press attention. Bryant and Milam were acquitted of Till’s kidnapping and murder, but only months later, in a magazine interview, protected against double jeopardy
, they admitted to killing him. Till’s murder is noted as a pivotal event motivating the African-American Civil Rights Movement
Problems identifying Till affected the trial, partially leading to Bryant’s and Milam’s acquittals, and the case was officially reopened by the United States Department of Justice
in 2004. As part of the investigation, the body was exhumed and autopsied resulting in a positive identification. He was reburied in a new casket, which is the standard practice in cases of body exhumation. His original casket was donated to the Smithsonian Institution
. Events surrounding Emmett Till’s life and death, according to historians, continue to resonate, and almost every story about Mississippi returns to Till, or the region in which he died, in “some spiritual, homing way”.