Till Mobley, Mamie and Benson, Christopher. Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America

By Fordham, Pamela | Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, January 2005 | Go to article overview

Till Mobley, Mamie and Benson, Christopher. Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America


Fordham, Pamela, Afro-Americans in New York Life and History


New York: Random House, 2003.

Death of Innocence, written by Mamie Till-Mobley and Christopher Benson, details the events surrounding her son-Emmett Till's, murder. The book portrays the emotional and political condition of America throughout the Civil Rights Movement era. Mrs. Till-Mobley puts the murder and the subsequent trial in a greater context, showing the role those events had in inspiring participation, particularly by the younger generation, to the Civil Rights Movement.

One of the most evident contrasts of the book is that although it intends to tell "the story of the hate crime that changed America," the story is really divided into two parts which depict America before and after Emmett Till's death. The first part is a detailed account of the numerous loving relationships that encompassed both Mamie and Emmett's lives. The backdrop to the hateful acts of Emmett's perpetrators is the loving Chicago community in which he grew up -- a community filled with friends and family members who understood that those very relationships were the key to their survival. It was a community of playgrounds, and mud holes filled with rainwater that were just as alluring as wading pools when transformed by youthful imaginations. It was a community of familial neighbors who waited on their porches at 8:59 each night for their children to return home to meet the 9:00 PM curfew. It was a time filled with celebrations; one so wonderful that Mamie Till-Mobely described it as a "perfect light that you see sometimes just before darkness falls."

Powerful memories of Mamie and Emmett's last days together mark the transition of the story's focus from life in Chicago to the details of the events surrounding Emmett's death. Those memories reveal Mamie's guilt about allowing Emmett to visit Mississippi in spite of her own misgivings. For days before his trip she tried urgently to help Emmett to understand all the cruel conventions of race relations between southern blacks and whites. She reminded him of her generation's Mississippi "cautionary tale":

"...a black woman who brought her little girl to work with her when she cleaned,

cooked, and did laundry for a white family in the South. The little girl became a playmate of the daughter of this white family. One day something happened that upset the little white girl and she ran to her daddy as he came down the drive after work. The man listened to his daughter, then confronted the little black girl, and became so angry with her that he pushed her hard against a tree. Just slammed her. Now, that girl's mother had to finish her day's work before she could even look after her daughter, who was left there writhing in pain the rest of the day. Eventually, the little girl died from her injuries" (19).

Emmett was also impressed upon by others who warned him about the differences between Chicago and Mississippi. One of his cousins even refused to join Emmett on his journey stating, "He couldn't get past all the things he had heard about the South. He didn't want to go." Nothing shook Emmett's excitement and belief that everything would be fine. In those reflective passages Mamie reveals her understanding that it was impossible to "give a crash course in hatred to a boy who [had] only known love."

On August 20, 1955 Emmett boarded the City of New Orleans train to make his fateful trip to a place very different from the world that had become so familiar to him. Mamie Till-Mobley described Mississippi as a "mirror image of the rest of the world. Normal at a glance, until you realized it was all completely backward." The Mississippi that Emmett visited during the last summer of his life was filled with fear and hatred. Mississippi politicians were engaged in a concerted effort to intimidate black citizens and keep them from acting on the Supreme Court ruling that "separate was not equal." In an effort to preserve the racist southern traditions, white politicians went to extreme lengths to prevent blacks from exercising their right to vote or to engage in any activity that might give voice to the idea that the right to vote even existed for blacks. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Till Mobley, Mamie and Benson, Christopher. Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.