The murder of Emmett Till, an innocent fourteen year old African American male lynched by two Caucasian men sparked an outcry from both races during a period of time where racial tension was at its highest in the south. Thanks to his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley and her courageous determination to bring Emmett’s murder to light, even in a time where this could have been an instant death sentence for Mamie, Dewan (2005) states “this became the first great media event of the civil rights movement.”
Chicago in the 1940-50’s was not like Mississippi regarding racial tensions. Growing up Emmett often heard of his mother’s stories of her childhood along the Mississippi Delta and desperately wanted to visit his family there. This was a visit Mamie was not too keen on and kept postponing since she knew that Emmett may not understand how to behave in front of Southern Whites, even though he often stated he understood the difference between the two cultures. While Emmett was away, Mamie was constantly worried and unable to get herself out of bed due to the fear associated with what could happen to Emmett if he made the wrong move in South Mississippi.
Emmett in Chicago was an adored child by many; he was educated, bold and charismatic. Emmett was sheltered from life outside his small suburb in Chicago, named the Promised Land during this period of time for the many who were escaping Mississippi to find a better life free from inequality and social injustice. Emmett had many family and friend supporters during his upbringing and did not experience much social tension until reaching Money, Mississippi. This was the fateful journey that changed the civil rights movement, at least for Mississippi forever.
Three days after Emmett’s arrival in Money Mississippi, Emmett and his cousins went to Bryant’s grocery and meat market to purchase some candy after picking cotton all day. Carolyn Bryant, the wife of one of the murderers, Roy Bryant was working at the store alone on this day. There are many variations to the story of Emmett on what happened next, but Mamie states what she believes happened.
Mobley and Benson (2003) states:
The kids were standing around on the porch outside the store when they saw Carolyn Bryant come out and head for a car. They kept laughing and talking as Emmett told everyone what he had bought. That’s when the whistle was heard. Maurice would later tell reporters that Emmett made a whistling sound when he got stuck on a word. “Bubble gum (pg. 122).”
It seems as though Carolyn Bryant thought that Emmett was being disrespectful towards her by whistling, which is stepping out of line and ignoring the customs of the south for an African American in South Mississippi. Carolyn Bryant did not want her husband to find out, but her husband caught wind of the encounter, being in a small southern town; Emmett was sought out, kidnapped, tortured, and brutally murdered.
Although Emmett, unbeknownst to...