When I was 14-years-old I read Juan Williams' "Eyes On the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years 1954-1968," and learned of another 14 year-old from Chicago, Emmett Louis "Bo" Till who met a tragic fate in the summer of 1955. While visiting relatives in the small rural town of Money, Mississippi, young Emmett was kidnapped in the middle of the night, severely beaten and murdered. His body was found days later in the Tallahatchie River, weighted down by a gin fan. His mother, Mamie Till (Mobley), was so sickened by the crime itself, the sight of her son's mutilated body, and the state of Mississippi's blatant disregard for the life of children that she held an open casket funeral so "the world could see" what was done to her "Bo" and act accordingly to eradicate the cancerous racism pervading America's heartland.
A number of accounts of the actual events leading to the murder of Emmett Till have been written. It is generally known that Bo's killers were the husband and brother-in-law of a storekeeper from who he bought two-cents worth of bubble gum days before his kidnapping. These two men were acquitted of the crime further drawing interest and mass attention to the story and the struggle for civil rights in America. Although a great deal has been written on the social context of the Till murder, there has been little focus on Emmett Till's life before August 28, 1955 and what the incident meant to the people who loved him. I, myself, have often wondered about Emmett's mother over the 16 years I have studied this case and what she must have been feeling and thinking. I wondered if she was still angry and bitter and what she had been doing since 1955.
In Death of Innocence, Mamie Till-Mobley fondly recalls her time with Emmett. She writes with compassion and conviction. You cannot read this book without feeling the strength exuding from its pages. Those of you who remember this shameful period in America's history and those of you learning about this case for the first time will ultimately be moved.
This report prepared by Aisha Staggers