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Violent suppression of equality in Mississippi

Melvin B. Miller
Violent suppression of equality in Mississippi
“They’ll do anything to deny us our rights.”

The concept of “freedom and justice for all” is too lofty a principal for many Americans to embrace. Evidence of this incapacity is the continued vandalism of the memorial to Emmett Till, even though it has been established that he was innocent of the alleged misconduct that provoked his lynching.

After his brutal death, the name “Emmett Till” became an inspiration to those fighting for equal rights in the Civil Rights Movement. He was a 14-year-old black boy from Chicago who went to Money, Mississippi in August 1955 to visit relatives. Even though he was just an adolescent, Till was accused of violating the deference due a white woman in Mississippi.

Till encountered Carolyn Bryant, the shopkeeper of the store in Money that she and her husband Roy Bryant operated. The specific incident that she viewed as offensive is not known, but her husband became infuriated enough to abduct Till from his house, torture him, shoot him in the head, batter his face, tie his lifeless body with weights, and throw it into the Tallahatchie River.

Bryant and his brother J.W. Milam were arrested and tried before an all-white jury. In less time that it would take to consider the evidence, the jury acquitted. After their acquittal, Bryant and Milam bragged about their assassination of a young boy, but they knew full well that they were protected by the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy.

Till’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, retrieved her son’s body from Mississippi, and had a well-publicized open casket funeral in Chicago. All the world was able to view the brutality of the Mississippi lynching. Some years later, Carolyn Bryant acknowledged that Till was not guilty of any offense to warrant such abusive treatment.

The normal reaction to such a disclosure would be a profound sense of guilt for murdering an innocent person, especially a child. But such sensitivities do not prevail in Money, Mississippi. Residents have vandalized and stolen memorials established in honor of Emmett Till. So benefactors have now established a bulletproof memorial weighing more than 500 pounds.

Where is the sense of justice and decency in Mississippi?   

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