Let Freedom Ring: A Documentary History of the Modern Civil Rights Movement

By Peter B. Levy | Go to book overview

Chapter Seven MISSISSIPPI: OPENING THE CLOSED SOCIETY

You know, it may sound funny, but I love the South. I don't choose to live anywhere else. There's land here, where a man can raise coffee, and I'm going to do that some day. There are lakes where a man can sink a hook and fight for bass.... There is room here for my children to play and grow, and become good citizens--if the white man will let them.... I'll be damned... if I'm going to let the white man beat me. There's something out here that I've got to do for my kids, and I'm not going to stop until I've done it.

-- Medgar Evers, "Why I Live in Mississippi"

In August 1955, the summer after the Brown decision, Emmett Till, of Chicago, age fourteen, traveled to Money, Mississippi, to visit with his mother's family. Shortly after he arrived, Till and his cousins went to the town drugstore and bought some candy. On his way out of the store, Emmett allegedly yelled out to the female storekeeper: "Bye baby." Later that night, the storekeeper's husband, Roy Bryant and his buddy, J. W. Milam, knocked on the door of Mose Wright, Till's great uncle and asked for the boy. They proceeded to drag Emmett out of the house, interrogated, beat, and then shot him in the skull from point- blank range. Then they dumped his corpse into the Tallahatchie River.

Till's murder outraged black America. Jet magazine published a graphic photograph of his mutilated body. His mother had insisted on an open casket funeral service so that "the whole world could see what they've done." Protests took place and the NAACP kept the case in the limelight to generate support for

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