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Vol. 9, No. 4: Winter 2003

The Lynching of Emmett Till: A Documentary Narrative (Review)

by Stephen J. Whitfield

University of Virginia Press, 2002.

Born near Chicago in 1941, Emmett Till was murdered in the Mississippi Delta on August 28, 1955, and became the best-known victim of racial violence in American history. Visiting relatives shortly before he would have become an eighth grader, Till entered a store in Leflore County and as a prank behaved suggestively toward Carolyn Bryant, the 21-year-old wife of the absent owner. Because of the breach of racial etiquette, Carolyn’s husband Roy Bryant and his half-brother, J. W. Milam, abducted Till from the home of his great-uncle, Moses Wright, pistol-whipped “the Chicago boy,” murdered him, and then dumped the corpse into the Tallahatchie River. Bryant and Milam were prosecuted about a month later; but, despite forthright testimony by the victim’s mother, Mamie Till Bradley, a jury of twelve white men acquitted them in late September, 1955. Protected by the Bill of Rights, which prohibits double jeopardy, the half-brothers soon recounted their crime to an Alabama journalist, William Bradford Huie, whose articles in Look Magazine in 1956 and 1957 were expanded into a pulp paperback, Wolf Whistle (1959), which kept the shocks reverberating.

This article appears as an abstract above, the complete article can be accessed in Project Muse
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