There are more questions than answers raised after even a cursory look at the events that led up to the horrific murder of Emmett Till. The recent release of the movie "Till" on his life story has opened up even more. Even though the case detailing his brutal torture and murder in 1945 was officially closed in 2021, it is hoped that this post will add to the public discourse and stimulate further inquiry that may eventually lead to re-opening the case.
Simeon Wright, Emmett Till's cousin was with him on that fateful day when he went to the store with his family to buy some snacks. As Wright told the story to us during a book signing at my store, Afriware Books, Co, he said that they drove to the grocery store after a long day of picking cotton. Wright discusses his story in the book, "Simeon's Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till." We uploaded his oral account to Youtube, which was saved under Emmett's mother Mamie Till Mobley's Youtube Channel under the name, "Simeon Wright talks about Emmett Till at AfriWare Pt. 1 of 2." We were honored to host the book signing Sept. 11, 2010 to a mesmerized audience. He recounted the story as if it had happened yesterday.
In this post, we will list the books by African American authors on Emmett Till and highlight some points of contention between the books.
I've also included a book on this list about Emmett's father who was also murdered under very questionable circumstances. Simeon Wright's oral statements following his book signing at my store mentioned that was a white female involved as well. To get a well more rounded view of who Emmett was by finding out the type of person he was, read "Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File" by Wideman, John Edgar
I wanted to make sure to mention that when the book "The Blood of Emmett Till" by Timothy Tyson in 2017, the Black community was LIVID about Till's accuser, Carolyn Bryant's recanting of her story about Emmett putting his hands on her. Simeon Wright shared with us in 2010 that while Emmett did whistle, he didn't touch her. Knowing that she made that part of the story up and that Emmett lost his life as a result of it was unbearable to stomach. It is a shame that all these years later noone has ever been acquitted nor done any jail time as a result for his murder. Simeon also shared that an apology has never been forthcoming either. As recounted in the NY Times article, "Woman Linked to 1955 Emmett Till Murder Tells Historian Her Claims Were False" saying, the author "wrote that she said of her long-ago allegations that Emmett grabbed her and was menacing and sexually crude toward her, “that part is not true.”
I recall wrestling with whether to make the book available to customers in the store or not. I got one copy for those who may want to see for themselves what she illegedly said, but there were absolutely no takers. I ended up sending the book right back to our distributor. Honestly, one of scarce silver linings to be found in the events surrounding Till's abduction. The first was that the Black community is reported to have boycotted the store owned by Bryant and her husband which resulted in the Bryants closing their store. The second is that Black readers refused to buy the book that could have brought any additional cash flow into Carolyn Bryant's purse.
In Dec. 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice closed the case on the murder of Emmett Till, as reported in the Ledger, article, Emmett Till investigation closed by Justice department; no new charges." In Mar. of 2022, however, the family delivered a petition with 250,000 signatures to charge Bryant with murder. After all, she admitted she made up the story in "The Blood of Emmett Till" book.
Now that the movie is out, it may add more insult to injury in my opinion. There are some important parts in the movie that could work in favor of Carolyn Bryant if they are not fact checked properly.
Till Movie: Fact vs. Fiction (spoiler alert)
The movie is a tear jerker to say the least. The performance by lead actress Danielle Deadwyler who played Mamie Till Bradley (before marriage to Mobley) was absolutely heartwrenching and extremely believeable if imagining the trememdouns pain and stress Mobley was under throughout the entire saga. It was if she was somehow channeling the raw emotions of the time period.
Though the reenactment synchronized well with many of the facts stated in the books mentioned, I found it odd and problematic that some were the exact opposite of what I'd read. I've (spoiler alert) listed some of them in the table above, "Separating Fact From Fiction: Till Movie Notes.". Sure we can always say, "this is just a movie," however, in this case the family is still seeking justice and has a petition that was delivered and others still open for signatures to charge the last remaining living accomplice to this heinous murder. The Till family has waited over 64 years for some semblance of justice and hasn't even received a formal apology.
Sign the Petition
If you would like to participate in perhaps one of the last remaining opportunities to prosecute anyone for this horrific crime, The Emmett Till Legacy Foundation (ETLF), its supporters and family members of Emmett Till have started an online petition to immediately serve the warrant on Carolyn Bryant Donham, wherever she may be found (and other demands) that you can sign here: https://sign.moveon.org/petitions/charge-surviving-accomplice-in-65-year-old-emmett-till-open-murder-case-now-justiceforemmetttill?source=rawlink&utm_source=rawlink&share=ecf3054a-5a1d-438e-81ff-b576145b7555
Want to know more?
As always, I appreciate that you have read through this blog post. I hope that you’ve become curious to read more books about Emmett Till or the Civil Rights Movement. We ask that you consider purchasing your books from our Black owned bookstore, Afriware Books, Co. If there is a title you’d like to purchase that is not mentioned here, or could not be found on the website, feel free to email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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