Let the people see The story of Emmett Till

Elliott J. Gorn, 1951-

Book - 2018

"Everyone knows the story of the murder of young Emmett Till. In August 1955, the fourteen-year-old Chicago boy was murdered in Mississippi for having--supposedly--flirted with a white woman named Carolyn Bryant, who was working behind the counter of a store. Emmett was taken from the home of a relative later that night by white men; three days later, his naked body was recovered in the Tallahatchie River, weighed down by a cotton-gin fan. Till's killers were acquitted, but details of ...what had happened to him became public; the story gripped the country and sparked outrage. It continues to turn. The murder has been the subject of books and documentaries, rising and falling in number with anniversaries and tie-ins, and shows no sign of letting up. The Till murder continues to haunt the American conscience. Fifty years later, in 2005, the FBI reopened the case. New papers and testimony have come to light, and several participants, including Till's mother, Mamie Till Mobley, have published autobiographies. Using this new evidence and a broadened historical context, Elliott Gorn delves into facets of the case never before studied and considers how and why the story of Emmett Till still resonates, and likely always will. Even as it marked a turning point, Gorn shows, hauntingly, it reveals how old patterns of thought and behavior linger in new faces, and how deeply embedded racism in America remains. Gorn does full justice to both Emmett and the Till Case--the boy and the symbol--and shows how and why their intersection illuminates a number of crossroads: of north and south, black and white, city and country, industrialization and agriculture, rich and poor, childhood and adulthood."--Provided by publisher.

Saved in:

2nd Floor Show me where

1 / 1 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 364.134/Gorn Checked In
New York, NY : Oxford University Press 2018.
Physical Description
x, 380 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
Elliott J. Gorn, 1951- (author)
  • Murder
  • I seen two knees and feet
  • Argo, Illinois
  • Money, Mississippi
  • I'm kinda scared there's been foul play
  • Lynching
  • We will not be integrated
  • Let the people see what they did to my boy
  • Mississippi's infamy
  • Trial
  • A good place to raise a boy
  • The news capitol of the United States
  • Fair and impartial men
  • Moses Wright
  • Undertaker Chester Miller
  • Sheriff George Smith and deputy John Ed Cothran
  • Mamie Till Bradley
  • An interracial manhunt
  • Willie Reed
  • Carolyn Bryant
  • Sheriff Clarence Strider
  • Doctor L. B. Otken and undertaker H. D. Malone
  • Your forefathers will turn over in their graves
  • Verdicts
  • I'm real happy at the result
  • The soul of America
  • Each of you own a little bit of Emmett
  • A propaganda victory for international communism
  • Louis Till
  • Evil such as the Till case are the result of a system
  • As far as I know, the case is closed
  • We call upon the president of the United States
  • Memory
  • This is a war in Mississippi
  • Few talk about the Till case
  • The time had come. I could feel it. I could see it.
  • We've known his story forever
  • A whistle or a wink.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

As historian Gorn (Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America) shows in this insightful study, the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 Mississippi has served as an "American Rashomon," reinterpreted again and again over the years by its tellers and listeners. In a series of short, tightly focused chapters, Gorn leads the reader through Till's short life, Northern and Southern responses to his killing, his mother's refusal to let her son's life and death be forgotten, and, in forensic detail, the trial and acquittal of his murderers. A particularly intriguing section deals with Emmett's father, Louis Till, who had been executed by the U.S. Army after being convicted of raping and murdering several women in Italy during WWII; although Louis had had very little contact with Emmett, Southern newspapers attempted to justify his killers' actions by claiming that he had somehow inherited Louis's desire to defile white women. Gorn presents a masterful excavation of the ways in which Till's memory was interpreted as both a rallying call for racial equality and a piece of "Jim Crow wisdom" that black parents passed on to their children to warn them of the dangers of a racist world. This perceptive take on a signal event from the civil rights movement deserves a wide readership. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Kirkus Book Review

The murder of young Emmett Till in 1955 stands today as a byword for racist injustice. How it became so is the subject of this well-conceived work of social history.Gorn (Chair, American Urban History/Loyola Univ. Chicago; Dillinger's Wild Ride: The Year That Made America's Public Enemy Number One, 2009, etc.) begins his account with the end of Till's lifethat is, with the gruesome murder in which the young black man was mutilated and tossed into a Mississippi river, his body weighted down with a part from a cotton gin. "We could tell by looking at it that it was a colored person," said a white farmer who recovered the body. Infamously, Till, visiting from Chicago, was killed for supposedly flirting with a white woman. It was one of countless lynchings, made public in good measure because Till's mother demanded an open casket, saying, "let the people see what they did to my boy." The woman's husband was implicated in a tale of justice and injustice that Gorn examines from many angles: the conduct of the investigation; the reverberations of the Till case in the civil rights movement that was then gathering force, especially as reported by the black press; and, today, how the memory of the Till case is presented in history books, museum exhibits, and the like. As the author documents, the proceedings made a textbook example of Southern apartheid, with a sheriff on the stand lying (he maintained that the body was black because it was sunburned, for instance) and with white supremacists defiantly proclaiming that Till was to be just the first of countless victims. Combing archives and libraries, Gorn assembles a solid case study in how an isolated legal case spread nationally and internationallyand in how, today, the once-exultant supremacist claim that no white would ever go to jail for killing a black person in Mississippi has since been disproven, though racism is far from disappearing.A timely contribution to the literature of civil rights. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.