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Emmett Till (1941-1955)

Those who saw last year’s The Help may be wondering if it showed the full picture of the racism of the Southern states before equal rights for blacks. One incident stands out as being  the most unimaginably extreme example of the racist attitudes towards blacks in the fifties.

A young man named Emmet Till was travelling from Chicago to visit his cousin. It was a long drive and when he got there he went  to a local store and bought some bubblegum. At this point Till joined some local boys and approached the white female shopkeeper and may have propositioned her (he suggested he had had sex with white women before). Sensing the situation could get out of hand, the boys told him to leave the town immediately.

It seems that someone told the men at the store where Hill lived. That night Bryant’s husband Roy and his half brother arrived at Till’s house, dragged him out of his bed, and drove him to a barn.Till’s body was badly beaten, his left eye gouged out, they shot him in the head and the next morning his body was found in the Tallahachie river. 

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Hill’s body face was so smashed in, that it was hard to identify him, and inspite of the terrible injuries his mother insisted that he have an open casket, so that the world could see what happened. Pictures of Hill’s pummelled face went around the world. 

As for the men who murdered Hill, there was a trial but they were acquitted after three months. Only a few months after the horrendous crime, Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of an Alabama bus, a sign that things were slowly starting to get better.

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