DEATH OF INNOCENCE by Mamie Till-Mobley


The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America
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Emmett Till’s mother tells the story of his childhood, his vicious murder in 1955, the shameful and quick acquittal of his unrepentant killers by an all-white male jury, and the aftermath of it all.

It’s not disinterested history, and students will have a difficult time using this account, which contains no notes, no index, and only a perfunctory bibliography. Till-Mobley, who died in Jan. 2003 at age 81, told her story many times in myriad public appearances, but this is the first time she has published it, assisted by Ebony journalist Benson. The first third deals with the birth and childhood of her son, depicted as a model boy who embodied every human virtue. The author tells us that she was twice sexually molested as a child and that she was a superior student. Her first husband, Louis Till, was not much of a husband or father; we learn much later that he was executed in Italy during WWII for murder and rape, though the author suggests he might have been the victim of a legal lynching. Young Emmett, called “Bo” by everyone, contracted polio as a child in Chicago but experienced a miracle cure. The author married again, but threw her husband out when she discovered he’d been unfaithful. The truly gripping middle section deals with Emmett’s visit at age 14 to relatives in Mississippi, his kidnapping and murder by white racists, the funeral, and the trial. His mother recognizes the historical importance of these events, which awakened many Americans to the racist horrors suffered by blacks in the Deep South. In the years after his death, chronicled in the final third section, Till-Mobley married again (happily this time), went back to school, earned an honors degree, became a teacher, retired, attended many important functions, met many important people, and made many mesmerizing speeches.

Events of historic significance related in the most ordinary and anecdotal way. (8 pp. b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 2003
ISBN: 1-4000-6117-2
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2003


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