has finally been published!
You can access it here. (Edit: This link works on all browsers except Chrome)
I write a lot about historical black figures, but Emmett Till’s story touches me somewhat more than other people. My first poem about this particular moment is here.
For those that do not know the story of Emmett Till, here goes: Till was visiting relatives in the South where it was said that he whistled at a white woman in a store or something to that effect on August 24th, and word spread around town.
Upon hearing this, the woman’s husband, Roy Bryant, along with a few accomplices kidnapped Emmett Till from his home, had his wife identify him as her “attacker,” and drove him to a barn where he pistol-whipped and knocked Till unconscious. His body was then beaten, disfigured, shot and then thrown into a river, weighted down by a seventy pound fan.
Three days later, Till’s body surfaced, found by two boys fishing; he was too swollen and bloated to recognize. He was very badly beaten, he was mutilated, he was shot, and he was nude, save for a ring with the initials “L.T.” which is what they used to identify him.
His mother requested that his body be returned to Chicago and that his casket be open at his funeral, displaying her then disfigured fourteen year old son’s body for the world to see. It is said that you could smell his body from two blocks away.
His killers were acquitted (not surprising for the time), even though they body admitted to kidnapping him. Mamie (Till’s mother) “didn’t cry enough” on the stand. The jury was virulent in their racism and some even later admitted that they knew Bryant and Milam were guilty; they just didn’t think that killing a black man unjustly warranted the death penalty.
Decades later, Carolyn Bryant, the woman Till was accused of making advances toward, retracted her statement. Emmett Till died over a lie. He died because someone believed a white woman just because she was white, and he died alone and scared without living much life. This is what hurts.
He did not deserve this. No one deserves this, but these lynchings still happen today, just under a different name.