Emmett Till’s Death and End of Segregation

In January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery in America. However, many whites after that believed that the slaves just set free shouldn’t get the same rights as whites. So, the Jim Crow Laws were created in order for blacks to not have the same rights as whites.

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Jim Crow laws state that blacks have to use different water fountains, schools, movie theaters, than whites. Groups such as the KKK were created also to prevent blacks from having these rights. So, even though they weren’t slaves, they still didn’t have full freedom. Many blacks in the south were angered but had no power, but some people did have power. One of those people is Emmett Louis Till. Emmett Louis Till was born  on July 25, 1941, and he was going to change the lives of countless blacks in America. However, since Emmett was from the North, he was unfamiliar with the etiquette blacks were expected to show to whites. In the South blacks were treated miserably due to the Jim Crow laws. Due to these laws Emmett Louis Till died.

It all began at  Bryant’s Grocery & Meat Market in Money, Mississippi. Emmett was left there alone in front of the cashier, Carolyn Bryant. Reportedly, he talked to her in a flirtatious way, and whistled to her on his way out. She didn’t like what Emmett did. Then, on August 26th, Ms. Bryant’s husband came back from a work trip. She immediately told her husband what happened that day regarding Emmett. Mr. Bryant and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, set up plans to kidnap Emmett. Then finally, on August 27th Bryant and Milam sought out to find Emmett. Around a few hours passed, they found out that Emmett was staying at his uncle’s house, Moses Wright. At around 2:30 in the morning, Milam and Bryant arrived at Wright’s house east of Money, Mississippi. Bryant knocked on the door and it was opened by Moses Wright. Bryant then went into the house, in order to find Emmett. Soon enough, Bryant found Emmett, put him in his car, then drove off with Emmett. According to Bryant and Milam’s interview after the incident, they “[justed whipped] him…and [scared] some sense into him.” Milam said they drove Emmett trying to find a cliff with a hundred-foot drop down to the Mississippi River. After a while, they failed to find the cliff, so the men drove to a barn near Drew, Mississippi.

Willie Reed, who was a witness at the barn, said he heard sounds including hollering and whipping coming from the barn, which were sounds which Emmett made when Bryant and Milam beat him up and killed him. After the truck left the farm, it stopped at J. W. Milam’s store in Glendora. A witness noticed that “blood [was] running out of the bed of the truck and pooling on the ground.” When the blood pointed to be Milam’s fault, he reportedly said that he killed a deer, and the blood was from the deer. When Milam was told it wasn’t the season for deers, he pulled back the tarp covering Emmett to reveal his dead body and said, “This is what happens to smart niggers.” Later on, Bryant and Milam decided to put Emmet’s dead body into the Tallahatchie River because they didn’t want to keep the dead body on them incase something like that happens again. Before they threw his body into the river, they find something in order for his body to sink. so , they stopped by a store to purchase a heavy fan that would sink his dead body. When they arrived at the Tallahatchie River, they tied the fan to Emmett’s neck, and put Emmett into the river. Three days later, a boy named Robert Hodges, found Emmett while he was fishing, eight miles away from where Emmett was put into the water. While Emmett was on the boat, he admired the silver ring on Emmet’s finger given to him by his father, Louis Till. Soon a man and his assistant walked up to the boat and lifted Emmett’s body from the boat and placed it in a casket.

Then the man’s assistant gave the silver ring to Wright, who later gave it to LeFlore County Deputy Sheriff John Ed Cothran. When they put Emmett into the casket, Bradley Wanted to leave the casket open to show how bad blacks were being treated. Bradley once said, “Unless an example is made of the lynchers of Emmett, it won’t be safe for a Negro to walk the streets anywhere in America.” Less than a day after Emmett’s disappearance, both Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam were arrested for kidnapping, and admitting that they took Emmett from his uncle’s home. On September 3, H. C. Strider, Counties Sheriff, stated that the body pulled out of the river didn’t seem like Emmett Till’s. Strider said, “the body looked more like a grown man instead of a young boy” and probably had been sitting in the river for four or five days. Which is longer than Emmett, since Emmett was in the river for only three days. After collecting these theories, Strider said that Emmett “is still alive.” Later on, all five white lawyers decided to be on Milam and Bryant’s side in the Bryant-Milam Trial. When the state began presenting the case, more than seventy reporters (some from far away distances including London), packed the courtroom. Moses Wright was the state’s first witness. Wright testified that Milam and Bryant came to his home on August 28 and carried his young relative, Emmett till, to their truck and left.

When Wright was asked to identify the two men, Wright rose from is seat dramatically and pointed at the defendants. Wright also told jury members he identified the body pulled from the river as being Emmett Till, and recognized the silver ring in the courtroom as being the ring he saw Emmett wear. Soon the state called to the stand Emmett’s mother, Mamie Bradley, in hope to eliminate all reasonable lies that can be said. She also identified the ring that Emmett was wearing. A series of prosecution witness left no reasonable doubt that Milam and Bryant took Emmett, but very little doubt that they killed him hours later. Later on, on Thursday afternoon, the state took a break and the defense presented its first witness, Carolyn Bryant. Carolyn Bryant described the August 24 incident with Emmett and her at the Bryant’s Grocery & Meat Market. Bryant said that “just after dark” with only Emmett and her in the store, Emmett was flirting with her and being touchy as she stood by the candy counter to collect money. She said she got her hand out of Emmett’s “with much difficulty” as Emmett asked her, “How about a date, baby?” and when she tried to walk away from Emmett, she said, Emmett grabbed her by the waist. “I was just scared to death.” After Mrs. Bryant’s Testimony, the jury members went to discuss if Milam and Bryant are guilty or not. 68 minutes later after the jury members had their discussion, they returned to the courtroom to tell everyone that Milam and Bryant are “Not Guilty.”

Within four years after Emmett’s murder trial, about 20% of black population in Tallahatchie County had left the town because they were scared they were going to die. Milam’s and Bryant’s stores, were boycotted and within fifteen months all the stores were either closed or sold due to insufficient money. Blacks refused to work on the Milam farm, and J.W. Milam found a new job which was bootlegging. Selling their store after the trial upset many people on their side. Sheriff Strider was heavy attacked in both national and Mississippi newspapers. Also in 1957, Strider barely escaped an attempt for people to kill him. None of the other men who participated in the kidnapping of Emmett till ever faced charges, However the Department of Justice reopened the case in 2004, and in 2005, Emmett’s body was dug out from the ground by the Cook County coroner to perform a postmortem examination on the body. After analyzing the body, the body was identified as Emmett Till’s body, and metallic fragments in the skull showed he was shot with a 0.45 caliber gun all for just a lie that Ms. Bryant said to her husband.

Overall, Emmett Till’s death helped segregation to end. Many people realize that whites were treating blacks so bad, that they needed to change. In August 28, 1963, 100 years after the Emencaplation Proclamation was written, a person named Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech that had the biggest impact on ending segregation. Then, with all of these events combined, segregation was gone for good. However, although the death of Emmett Till was very tragic, Emmett died in order to change the way the other blacks in America lived the rest of their lives.

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