“From 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States. Of these people that were lynched 3,446 were black. The blacks lynched accounted for 72.7% of the people lynched. These numbers seem large, but it is known that not all of the lynchings were ever recorded.” (Excerpt from “History of Lynching”. https://www.naacp.org/history-of-lynchings/)
These statistics are harrowing, however, they were the reality of life for many African Americans following the end of the Civil War and through the Civil Rights Movement. One lynching in particular has been called the catalyst to the Civil Rights Movement, and it was that of 14 year old Emmett Till of Chicago. His brutal murder at the hands of two white men in Mississippi in 1955 shocked the world. His mother Mamie Till’s decision to have an open casket for her son sent the Civil Rights Movement into overdrive.
The plight of African Americans during that time period was hard to hide when photos of Emmett Till’s brutally massacred body were on the front pages of many local, national and international newspapers. His story has been told over and over again and has become even more relevant today as many African Americans have been killed at the hands of police or regular citizens usually without just cause, and just as concerning, without justice.
Timothy B. Tyson’s The Blood of Emmett Till sheds new light on this heart-wrenching story. He draws from an exclusive interview, and the only known interview with Caroline Bryant, the woman who accused Emmett Till of whistling at her in a convenient store setting off a chain of events that would spark change in this country. His book is thought-provoking and difficult to read because of the tragic details of Emmett’s story.
The idea that a young boy from Chicago visiting his grandfather in Mississippi could be such a dangerous and life altering event shows how deep the evils of racism and bigotry ran in this country—and tragically still appear all too often. Tyson encourages us all to remember what a dark past this country has and to be careful as we are only mere steps away from repeating some of history’s worst offenses. Furthermore, he warns us that “We are still killing black youth because we have not yet killed white supremacy.” His purpose for revisiting this tragic story seems to be to incite action to finally end the centuries old legacy of racial hatred fueled by white supremacy. Readers will be inspired to step up and speak out against injustices of any kind.
Tyson, Timothy B. The Blood of Emmett Till. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017.