A DEATH IN THE DELTA: The Story of Emmett Till by Stephen J. Whitfield

A DEATH IN THE DELTA: The Story of Emmett Till

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The story of the 1955 kidnapping and murder of Emmett Till, the myths and emotional climate of the South that condoned it and absolved his killers, and the impact of these events on the then-dormant civil-rights movement. A cheeky 14-year-old Chicago boy, Till may have acted on a dare when he walked into a small store in a Mississipi Delta village and reportedly asked the young white woman behind the counter for a date and then whistled at her. Her husband and his half-brother kidnapped him in front of the relatives he was visiting, pistol-whipped him in a remote barn, and then shot him. Despite conclusive evidence of guilt, a jury of rustics found the killers innocent on both counts. Till, says Whitfield (American Studies/Brandeis), was a victim of southern paranoia about black male sexuality. Convinced that equality would lead to rampant rape of ""pure"" white women and miscegnation, the South had mobilized to fight black voter registration attempts and defy Supreme Court-ordered school desegregation. The murder of Till and the subsequent firestorm of indignation may have encouraged Martin Luther King to lead the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott; the Till case, says Whitfield, was the ""breaking point"" of black meekness in the face of Jim Crow. Meticulously documented, this work illuminates our understanding of our era's dramatic changes in the relations between southern blacks and whites.

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 1988
ISBN: 080184326X
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan