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The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson

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America is still killing Emmet Till

In 2014, protestors ringed the White House, chanting ‘How many Black Kids will you kill? Michael Brown, Emmett Till! “Why did demonstrators invoke the name of a black boy murdered six decades before?

In 1955, white men in Mississippi Delta lynched a fourteen year old from Chicago named Emmett Till. His murder was part of a wave of the 1954 Supreme Court decision that public school segregation unconstitutional.

The national coalition organized to protest the Till lynching became the foundation of the modern civil rights movements. Only weeks later, Rosa Parks thought about young Emmett as she refused to move to the back of a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Five years later, the Emmett Till generation, forever marked by the vicious killing of a boy their own age, launched sit-in campaigns that turned the struggle into a mass movement. ‘I can’t hear the blood of Emmett Till as it calls from the ground,’ shouted a black preacher in Albany, Georgia.

But what actually happened to Emmett Till-not the icon of injustice but the flesh and blood boy? Part detective story, part political history, Timothy Tyson’s The Blood of Emmett Till draws on a wealth of new evidence, including the only interview ever given by Carolyn Bryant, the white woman in whose name Till was killed. Tyson’s gripping narrative upends what we thought we knew about the most notorious racial crime in American History.
Review

I found out about Timothy Tyson’s book, The Blood of Emmett Till through twitter. A friend informed me about it and luckily, I was able to get an ARC of the book from the publishers through NetGalley.

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I didn’t know about Emmett Till until a few years ago when I came across a documentary about his death. Through online research, I was able to get more details about the murder and also see the photograph of the young man’s body as published by the press at that time, following his mother’s brave decision to show the world exactly what had been done to her son. Years later, I can still remember that image and the shock that I felt knowing just how much eveil human beings are capable of.

Tyson’s book gives more details about the murder and in particular the trial. It also contains snippets on a conversation with Carolyn which reveal that she may have lied about what really happened when she met Till at the store on that fateful day.

The bravery of a number of people is one thing that stood out for me about this story. These are the people who decided not to remain silent at the face of injustice. I was deeply moved by Till’s uncle and other black witnesses who decided to testify despite the threats on their lives. Tears filled my eyes when I read about Wright, Emmett’s uncle, bravely standing up in court and identifying the man who kidnapped his nephew. He pointed right at the man and said, that’s him.I can only imagine how scary it was for witnesses to speak again against the white murderers in a town filled with white supremacists. Their bravery helped in shedding light about what happened to Till. Speaking about bravery, I truly admire Till’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley. Devastated by her son’s death, Mamie still stood up to fight for justice. Her decision to bury Till in Chicago and have an open-casket funeral despite the threats and warnings definitely helped shape history and send a strong message to the white supremacists who thought that they could silence her.

Tyson’s book does not only focus on the murder and the trial. Through the chapters, the author mentions other cases and incidents that occurred during the period. The race relations are described in detail to give a vivid description of the political climate in the 1950s. For a reader (like me) unfamiliar with some of the details about the racism and segregation, it was shocking and really disturbing. I mean, I don’t think I’ll ever really understand racism or any other form of hate. There is just no way to justify it.

The book is well researched and hence quite informative especially for readers who may not have a lot of knowledge about American History. The author explains the political climate in the country in the 50s with details of the two opposing sides. The fact that there were people who actually fought FOR segregation really surprised me. As in for real, these folks were trying to protect segregation and fight against the change. Thankfully, they lost the battle.

I recommend The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson to anyone interested in learning more about Till’s murder and the circumstances that surrounded it. If you have an interest in American history and the civil rights movement then this is the book for you. To readers who are not familiar with the case, this book is insightful and it will help you understand what took place. The author not only explains the circumstances surrounding this devastating case but also provides details about the impact of the murder on the white supremacists and the effect that it had on those who mourned Till. Through the pages, we also get to learn how the murder shaped the course of history.

Towards the end of the book, the author makes a profound statement by illustrating how six decades later, America is still Killing Emmett Till. He puts the social injustices in the present context to demonstrate how they may be different from the 1950s but they are still happening. I thought of Trayvon Martin when I read the final chapters. It really does make you think, doesn’t it?

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Compelling, detailed and very well written, definitely a powerful and important book.

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16 comments on “The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson

  1. Renee
    February 13, 2017

    Sounds like a thought provoking read Diana! I’ve never heard of Emmet Till. I enjoyed reading your review it’s insightful and well written:)

    • Diana
      February 13, 2017

      I think its one story that will stay with me for long.I can’t stop thinking about it.Thanks Renee and I definitely recommend this book if you want to know about Till.As Lekeisha mentioned in the comment below,its a good read for anyone unfamiliar with the story.

  2. I remember reading about this in one of my high school American history classes and being horrified. Sad, that we really haven’t moved all that far forward, and sadder is the number of people who refuse to acknowledge that we still have an enormous racism problem in this country.😔

    • Diana
      February 13, 2017

      I don’t know why people do that.Is it that they are embarrassed about the existence of the issue or perhaps they hope that it will just go away.Its the same thing here.We may have gained our independence in 1964 and race relations improved but we still have issues and racism is still there but people shu away from even discussing it.Sad situation.

  3. Lekeisha The Booknerd
    February 13, 2017

    I’ve known about him all my life, and every time I see that photo of him in his casket I get angry. He was unrecognizable! What makes me even angrier to this day is when a white person says to “get over it”. Get over slavery, oppression, all the black people lynched during the Jim Crow Era? I think not. I wanted to read this book but I’ve read that it adds nothing new to the story. I do think this book is perfect for those who don’t know the story, though. Great review!

    • Diana
      February 13, 2017

      Thanks Lekeisha.Ive seen the same hthing on goodreads about the book not having any new information so yeah,I guess its better suited for those unfamiliar with Emmett’s story.
      I don’t see how its possible to forget or ‘get over it’.Its disrespectful to even expect anyone to do that.

  4. Grab the Lapels
    February 13, 2017

    The fact that so many people don’t know who Emmit Till is *blows my mind.* Not because I think those people are ignorant, but because so much of our public education is sanitized. Ask a freshman in college what they know about the civil rights movement, and they say, “Well, there was the MLK speech.” They know nothing of Malcolm X (or they think he was in the Black Panther Party), they tend to think Rosa Parks just got fed up one day (she didn’t; the whole thing was planning in conjunction with MLK), and they forget that much of the civil rights movement was organized by students their own age, from the sit in’s to the protests where they were beaten to a pulp for the sake of making it into the media to gain national attention. And I hate to say it, but schools are legally desegregated today, but not really. Based on income and housing discrimination, people of color are often shuffled into economic ghettos where they look around and see other kids who look just like them and are left with no resources–there are public schools that don’t even have toilet paper. I have so many books I could recommend. This topic gets me all fired up because American citizens are so poorly informed about what’s happening around them and why–and how much of it ties right back to slavery. I want to shake people who say we’re all equal now, that this is a post-racist society.

    • Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku
      February 17, 2017

      I COMPLETELY agree. I learned about Emmett Till through my religious school, actually. He was never mentioned once in my public school education. American students barely study the civil rights movement in public school. That said, I think that there are a lot of great Middle Grade and YA books being published focused on this time. It should become easier for teachers to get information about the civil rights movement to younger students now. That said, we still have a long way to go…

  5. Yvo
    February 13, 2017

    Great review! It sounds like a truly fascinating read. 🙂

    • Diana
      February 21, 2017

      It really is. Thanks Yvo 🙂

  6. Laila@BigReadingLife
    February 15, 2017

    Really good review. Sounds like a very valuable and still timely read!

    • Diana
      February 24, 2017

      Thanks Laila. Yes it is:-)

  7. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku
    February 17, 2017

    Great post, Diana! It’s obvious that this book really touched you. Like Melanie said, I’m glad you had at least heard of him! I haven’t read a ton about his death because, well, it’s gruesome. I’m so glad to see this book is being published, though! What age range would you recommend for this?

    • Diana
      February 24, 2017

      Hey Jackie, I don’t really know what to say about the age range. If it was here, Id say that its best for kids above 12 years old since that is the age that we start studying about history even if its about the heavy/difficult themes. The book isn’t graphic but it does give details about the murder and Emmet’s body so that may be upsetting for younger readers I guess. Tough question though 🙂

  8. Pingback: March TBR(February Wrap-Up) | A Haven for Book Lovers

  9. Those are some great observations. I’ll keep that in mind before recommending this to some of my students. That said, I think they’d love this book!

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