A 14-year-old Chicago boy by the name of Emmett Till departs Chicago in the summer of 1955 to stay with a great uncle in the Mississippi Delta. His mama warns him to address white people as sir and ma’am and to always remember that the south is different when it comes to race relations. One day, he and a group of teenagers enters Bryant’s Groceries and Meat Market to pick up candy and soda. A woman by the name of Carolyn Bryant waits on him. What we don’t know: the words he exchanged with white female clerk and whether or not he touched her or whistled at her. What we do know: four days later, Emmett was forced out of bed and kidnapped by Carolyn’s husband and his half-brother. His horribly disfigured body soon showed up in the Tallahatchie River and, with it, public outcry across the country and the world.
Emmett’s mother insisted on holding an open casket funeral to reveal the shocking brutality of the crime. She also permitted the press to photograph and share his maimed body. Suddenly, the racially motivated lynchings that had been taking place all along were out in the open for everyone to see.
In The Blood of Emmett Till, author and researcher Timothy B. Tyson gives readers a lot to unpack. He writes of the political climate leading up to Emmett’s death, the drama of the courtroom trial, and the role the murder played in launching the Civil Rights Movement. He also compares the tragedy to current events, including the Black Lives Matter movement of today. What separates this book from others on the subject is that Tyson was able to interview Carolyn Bryant in 2008 and gather her never-before-told account. Her account, it turns out, has changed the way in which history books are written.The Blood of Emmett Till is a thought-provoking and monumental work that brings a fresh perspective to a decades-old story.