“#BlackLivesMatter” is an expanding movement that fights for freedom and justice for all black lives. It started in 2012, after Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman while walking unarmed in his neighborhood. Zimmerman was later acquitted of all charges. This create a nationwide outrage in which the public felt that there was a total disregard for blacks basic human rights and dignity. This tragedy is just as similar to the murder of Emmett Till in 1955. Till was kidnapped and murdered after whistling at a white woman.
The life and murder of Emmett Till as well as the court ruling of his murder later sparked an outrage that pushed for African-American Civil Rights. Emmett Louis “Bobo” Till was born on July 25th 1941 in Chicago’s Cook County Hospital to Louis and Mamie Till. In 1942, Mamie and Louis Till separated. Emmett never really knew much about his father. Louis Till died in Europe in 1945, two years after he was drafted into World War II. Mamie did not get full information on Louis’s death, but she was given his ring that he was wearing on his finger when he died.
A few days before Emmett Till was murdered, Mamie gave him his father’s ring. Mamie Till raised Emmett as a single mother and worked long hours for the Air Force as a clerk responsible for confidential files. Emmett Till grew up in a middle class black neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago. He was described as a responsible out-going child who loved to make people laugh. Because his mother was always working long hours throughout the day, Till had to be responsible and care for the house as well as himself at a very young age. He attended McCosh Grammar School which was an all-black school.
Emmett wanted to go with his uncle, Moses Wright, and friend, Wheeler Parker, to Mississippi to spend some time there with his relatives in August 1955. Although his mother was originally reluctant, she eventually allowed him to go not knowing that she would never see him alive again. Three days after arriving in Money, Mississippi on August 24th, 1955, Till and a few others entered Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market to buy refreshments after picking cotton in the sun. Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market was owned by Roy Bryant and his wife Carolyn Bryant also worked there. While in the store. Till purchased bubble gum.
What happens after that is unclear. Some witnesses report that Till whistled and said “bye, baby” to Carolyn Bryant. Other witnesses suggest that Till placed the money in Bryant’s hand instead of putting it on the counter Offended by Till’s actions, Bryant informs her husband about the events that transpired in the store while he was away claiming she was harassed. A few days later, Roy Bryant and his half brother J. W. Milam kidnapped Till from his uncle’s home at approximately 2:30am on August 28th, 1955. They brutally beat and kill Till before dumping his body into the Tallahatchie River.
Moses Wright reported Till as missing to the police and was found three days later. His body was so mutilated that he was unrecognizable. Wright was able to identify him through his father’s ring initialed “L. T. ” his mother had given him prior to going to Mississippi. Authorities wanted to bury Till’s body quickly but Mamie Till wanted his body sent back to Chicago. She decided that she wanted an open casket so everyone can see how her son was brutally murdered because of racism. Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam went to trial in a segregated courthouse two weeks after the murder. There were very few witnesses, one being Moses Wright.
The all-white, all male jurors deliberated for less that one hour. According to the LA times, the jurors would have taken less time deliberating if they did not stop to take a soda break. Bryant and Milam were given the verdict of “not guilty” which sparked a national outrage. How could these two be acquitted of all charges when witnesses and evidence point to both Bryant and Milam? According to those jurors, murder was suddenly a justified punishment for the 14 year old who whistled at a white woman. People around the world were also outraged by the state’s decision of Bryant and Milam not being tried on separate charges of kidnapping.
After the trials were over, Look Magazine offered Bryant and Milam the chance to tell their story of what really happened when Till was murdered for an undisclosed amount of money. Because they could not be tried again for the murder of Till under the protection of the Double Jeopardy law in Fifth Amendment, both Bryant and Milam admitted to committing the crime. They spoke freely on how they kidnapped and killed Till. The murder of Emmett Till soon became the spark plug to the American Civil Rights movement.
According to the LA Times, In Chicago, “more than 20,000 people protested after the acquittal along with another 10,000 in Harlem. ” Many people who were on the sidelines during the Civil right movement wanted to join the fight for equal rights. One hundred days after the Emmett Till’s murder, Rosa Parks refused to give seat while on an Alabama bus on her way home. That soon sparked the Montgomery Bus boycott led by Martin Luther King lasting 381 days. Nine years later, congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, banning racial discrimination and segregation.