E mmett Till was born in 1941 – Chicago. He came from a family with multiple problems. His parents had to move due to the uneven opportunities and abuse from white people. Eventually, they ended up moving to Argo and Detroit later on.
Emmett's father was separated from his mother after she found him cheating. He abused her, so he had to choose between imprisonment and the army. He joined the army, but sadly for him, he was found guilty for raping an Italian woman. As a direct consequence, he was trialled and hanged. His mother married another man in Detroit, but it did not last too long. Emmett seemed to like Chicago more, where he used to go quite often to live with his grandmother. He was a peaceful kid who spent lots of time with distant cousins and friends.
Emmett had an incident with his mother's second husband, who kept trying to abuse her, but it was an isolated one. Since his mother got a job with the U.S. Air Force, he had to do lots of work at home and help keeping it clean. According to testimony from those who knew him, he was usually happy, joyful and surrounded by friends.
Despite having a relatively rough life – especially in those times, Emmett Till managed to get as much as possible from his childhood.
Getting to Mississippi
B y 14 years old, Emmett was a bulky and stocky kid. After spending some quality time with his uncle from Mississippi, he begged his mother to go visit the family there. She warned him that Mississippi and Chicago were completely different and ensured he knew how to behave with white people.
While racial crimes were still quite popular, they were far from what happened during the 19th century. However, Mississippi was still ranked among the most racial states. Just a week before Emmett arrived in Mississippi, a black man was killed for being an activist.
The unfortunate incident
E mmett Till and a few friends reached to a local store to get candy. The store was owned by Roy Bryant and his wife Carolyn – a white couple. What happened in that store will never be known, as there are quite a few different versions.
Some say that Emmett wolf whistled at Carolyn. Some others say that he was bragging about having a white girlfriend. Emmett also had a persistent stutter and his mother taught him to whistle before saying particular words.
F The same night, Rob Bryant and a friend started questioning young black males in the area. Eventually, he found out that the problematic kid was living with his uncle. He rushed there in the middle of the night and asked to see the kid. A voice from the car confirmed that he was the one. They took him and disappeared.
When questioned about it, they said they released him in front of the store just hours later. His uncle was afraid to call the sheriff due to a few threatenings, but the family did it eventually after he also let Emmett's mother know about the problem. He drove around trying to find him, but he was unsuccessful. Emmett's body was found days later by some kids who were fishing. His face was mutilated. He was also shot a few times and he could not be recognized. His ring was the only thing that helped the authorities identify him. He was naked and tied to a large fan – probably to keep him underwater. One of his eyes was missing. The body was so badly damaged that the casket had to be closed during the funeral. The situation did ask for a trial though.
T he trial showed obvious signs of racism. Even the sheriff used to welcome black people by all kinds of names. Any black attendee had to sit in the segregated section.
Jury members were allowed to drink beer in court and some of them wore handguns. The official defense version was that the kid was released that night. In fact, the lawyer even questioned his death, as the condition of the body was too bad.