The Death Of Emmett Till

Bob Dylan
Lingua: Inglese

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Lyrics and Music by Bob Dylan
Testo e musica di Bob Dylan
Never officially released
Ufficialmente inedita

Emmett Till e sua madre Mamie poco prima dell'assassinio razzista del ragazzo. Emmett Till and his mother Mamie shortly before the young man's racist murder.
Emmett Till e sua madre Mamie poco prima dell'assassinio razzista del ragazzo. Emmett Till and his mother Mamie shortly before the young man's racist murder.

Avvertenza / Notice

Abbiamo scelto di presentare in questa pagina delle fotografie non scioccanti. Durante il funerale di Emmett Till, sua madre scelse di farlo svolgere a bara scoperta per mostrare in che modo fosse stato ridotto suo figlio dai suoi assassini. Le foto sono disponibili qui. Da un lato avvertiamo che si tratta di immagini terribili che potrebbero autenticamente turbare. Dall'altro sarebbe però opportuno vedere con occhio che cos'è il razzismo assassino, anche in questo paese nell'anno 2007. [CCG Staff]

Our choice has been to illustrate this page by the use of unshocking pictures. On Emmett Till's burial, his mother ordered that the coffin be left uncovered to show the way her son had been slaughtered by his murderers. The images are available here. On one side, we warn that such images are terrible and that they could really shock you; on the other side, it would be advisable to see with your own eyes what the word racism does really mean, even in this country in the year 2007. [AWS Staff]

The Death of Emmett Till is a song written by Bob Dylan about the murder of African American Emmett Till that occurred on August 28, 1955. While the song has never been officially released, bootlegs of several performances of the song circulate among Dylan collectors.

One bootlegged performance, which was recorded from Cynthia Gooding's radio show called Folksinger's Choice sometime in early 1962, starts with Dylan saying that the melody is based off of chords he heard from folk musician Len Chandler.

Emmett Till

emmettillwreathEmmett Louis "Bobo" Till (July 25, 1941 – August 28, 1955) was a fourteen year old African-American young man from Chicago, Illinois brutally murdered in Money, Mississippi, a small town in the state's Delta region. His murder has been cited as one of the key events that energized the nascent American Civil Rights Movement. The main suspects were acquitted, but later admitted to committing the crime.

Till's mother insisted on a public funeral service with an open casket to let everyone see how he had been brutally killed. He had been shot, beaten and had his eye gouged out before he was then thrown into the Tallahatchie River with a 75-pound cotton gin fan tied to his neck as a weight with barbed wire. His body stayed in the river for three days until it was discovered and retrieved by two fishermen.

Till's body resides in Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois. The murder case was officially reopened in May 2004, and as a part of the investigation the body was exhumed so an autopsy could be performed. The body was reburied by the family in the same location later that week.

Emmett Till was the son of Mamie Till and Louis Till. Emmett's mother was born to John and Alma Carthan in the small Delta town of Webb, Mississippi ("the Delta" being the traditional name for the area of northwestern Mississippi, at the confluence of the Yazoo and Mississippi Rivers). When she was two years old, her family moved to Illinois. Emmett's mother largely raised him on her own; she and Louis Till had separated in 1942.

Emmett's father, Louis Till, was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943. While serving in Italy, he was convicted of raping two women and killing a third. He was executed by the Army by hanging near Pisa in July 1945. Before Emmett Till's killing, the Till family knew none of this, only that Louis had been killed due to "willful misconduct". The facts of Louis Till's execution were only made widely known after Emmett Till's death, by segregationist senator James Eastland, in an apparent attempt to turn public support away from Mrs. Till just weeks before the trials of Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, the implication being that criminal behavior ran in the Till family.

In 1955, Till and his cousin were sent for a summer stay with Till's great-uncle, Moses Wright, who lived in Money, Mississippi (another small town in the Delta, eight miles north of Greenwood).

Before his departure for the Delta, Till's mother cautioned him to "mind his manners" with white people.

Till's mother understood that race relations in Mississippi were very different from those in Chicago. The state had seen many lynchings during the South's lynching era (ca. 1876-1930), and racially motivated murders were still not unfamiliar, especially in the "Delta" region where Till was going to visit. Racial tensions were also on the rise after the United States Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education to end segregation in public education.

Till arrived on August 21. On August 24, he joined other young teenagers as they went to Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market to get some candy and soda. The teens were children of sharecroppers and had been picking cotton all day. The market was owned by a husband and wife, Roy Bryant and Carolyn Bryant, and mostly catered to the local sharecropper population. Till's cousin and several black youths, all under 16, were with Till in the store. Till had shown them photos of his life back home, including one of him with his friends and girlfriend, a white girl. The boys didn't believe that he had a white girlfriend and dared him to talk to a white woman in the shop.

As Till was leaving the store, he allegedly said "Bye, baby," to Carolyn Bryant, a married white woman. She stood up and stormed to her car. The boys were terrified thinking she might return with a pistol and ran away. The news of this greatly angered her husband when he heard of it upon his return from out of town a few days later.

Till's cousin, Wheeler Parker, Jr., who was with him at the store, claims Till did nothing but whistle at the woman. "He loved pranks, he loved fun, he loved jokes ... in Mississippi, people didn't think the same jokes were funny." Carolyn Bryant later asserted that Till had grabbed her at the waist and asked her for a date. She said the young man also used "unprintable" words. He had a slight stutter and some have conjectured that Bryant might have misinterpreted what Till said.

emmettnewspaperBy the time 24-year-old Roy Bryant returned from a road trip three days after his wife’s encounter with Till, it seemed that everyone in Tallahatchie County had heard about the incident, in every conceivable version. Bryant decided that he and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, 36, would meet at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday to "teach the boy a lesson."

At about 12:30 a.m. on August 27, Bryant and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, kidnapped Emmett Till from his great-uncle's house in the middle of the night. According to witnesses, they drove him to a weathered shed on a plantation in neighboring Sunflower County, where they brutally beat and then shot him. The fan around his neck was to weigh down his body, which they dropped into the Tallahatchie River near Glendora, another small cotton town, north of Money.

The brothers and police tried to convince the people that Emmett Till was in Chicago and that the beaten boy was someone else, but the only way that he was recognized was by the ring on his finger that had been his father's. His mother had given it to him the day before he left for Money. The brothers were soon under official suspicion for the boy's disappearance and were arrested August 29 after spending the night with relatives in Ruleville, just miles away from the scene of the crime.

Both men admitted they had taken the boy from his great-uncle's yard but claimed they turned him loose the same night. Word got out that Till was missing and soon NAACP civil rights leader Medgar Evers, the state field secretary, and Amzie Moore, head of the Bolivar County chapter, became involved, disguising themselves as cotton pickers and going into the cotton fields in search of any information that would help find the young visitor from Chicago.

Some supposed that relatives of Till were hiding him out of fear for the youth’s safety or that he had been sent back to Chicago where he would be safe.

Moses Wright, a witness to Till's abduction told the Sheriff that a person who sounded like a woman had identified Till as "the one" after which the men had driven away with him. Bryant and Milam claimed they later found out Till was not "the one" who allegedly insulted Mrs. Bryant, and swore to Sheriff George Smith they had released him. They would later recant and confess after their acquittal.

In an editorial on Friday, September 2, Greenville journalist Hodding Carter, Jr. asserted that "people who are guilty of this savage crime should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," a brave suggestion for any Mississippi newspaper editor to make.

After Till's horribly disfigured body was found, he was put into a pine box and nearly buried, but Mamie Till wanted the body to come back to Chicago. A Tutwiler mortuary assistant worked all night to prepare the body as best he could so that Mamie Till could bring Emmett's body back to Chicago.

The Chicago funeral home had agreed not to open the casket, but Mamie Till fought it, and after the state of Mississippi would not allow the funeral home to open it, Mamie threatened to open it herself, insisting she had a right to see her son. After viewing the body, she also insisted on leaving the casket open for the funeral and allowing people to take photos because she wanted people to see how badly Till's body had been disfigured. News photographs of Till's mutilated corpse circulated around the country, notably appearing in Jet magazine, drawing intense public reaction. Some reports indicate up to 50,000 people viewed the body.

Emmett Till was buried September 6 in Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois. The same day, Bryant and Milam were indicted by a grand jury.

When Mamie Till came to Mississippi to testify at the trial, she stayed in the home of Dr. T.R.M. Howard in the all-black town of Mound Bayou. Others staying in Howard's home were black reporters, such as Cloyte Murdock of Ebony Magazine, key witnesses, and Congressman Charles Diggs of Michigan, the first chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. Howard was a major civil rights leader and fraternal organization official in Mississippi, the head of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL), and one of the wealthiest blacks in the state.

On the day before the trial, Frank Young, a black farm worker, came to Howard's home. He said that he had information indicating that Milam and Bryant had help in their crime. Young's allegations sparked an investigation that led to unprecedented cooperation between local law enforcement, the NAACP, the RCNL, black journalists, and local reporters. The trial began on September 19. Mose Wright, Emmett's great-uncle, was one of the main witnesses called up to speak. Pointing to one of the suspected killers, he said "Dar he," to refer to the man who had killed his nephew.

Another key witness for the prosecution was Willie Reed, an 18-year-old high school student who lived on a plantation near Drew, Mississippi in Sunflower County. The prosecution had located him because of the investigation sparked by Young's information. Reed testified that he had seen a pickup truck outside of an equipment shed on a plantation near Drew managed by Leslie Milam, a brother of J.W. and Roy Bryant. He said that four whites, including J.W. Milam, were in the cab and three blacks were in the back, one of them Till. When the truck pulled into the shed, he heard human cries that sounded like a beating was underway. He did not identify the other blacks on the truck.

On September 23 the all-white jury, made up of 12 males, acquitted both defendants. Deliberations took just 67 minutes; one juror said they took a "soda break" to stretch the time to over an hour "to make it look good." The hasty acquittal outraged people throughout the United States and Europe and energized the nascent Civil Rights Movement.

Even during the trial, Howard and black journalists such as James Hicks of the Baltimore Afro-American named several blacks who had allegedly been on the truck near Drew including three employees of J.W. Milam: Henry Lee Loggins, Levi 'Too-Tight' Collins, and Joe Willie Hubbard. In the months after the trial, both Hicks and Howard called for a federal investigation into charges that Sheriff H.C. Strider had locked up Collins and Loggins in jail to keep them from testifying.

In a January 1956 article in Look Magazine for which they were paid $4,000, J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant admitted to journalist William Bradford Huie that he and his brother had killed Till. They did not fear being tried again for the same crime because of the Constitutional double jeopardy protection. Milam claimed that initially their intention was to scare Till into line by pistol-whipping him and threatening to throw him off a cliff. Milam claimed that regardless of what they did to Till, he never showed any fear, never seemed to believe they would really kill him, and maintained a completely unrepentant, insolent, and defiant attitude towards them concerning his actions. Thus the brothers said they felt they were left with no choice but to fully make an example of Till. The story focused exclusively on the role of Milam and Bryant in the crime and did not mention the possible part played by others in the crime.

In February 1956 Howard's version of events of the kidnapping and murder, which stressed the possible involvement of Hubbard and Loggins, appeared in the booklet Time Bomb: Mississippi Exposed and the Full Story of Emmett Till by Olive Arnold Adams. At the same time a still unidentified white reporter using the pseudonym Amos Dixon wrote a series of articles in the California Eagle. The series put forward essentially the same thesis as Time Bomb but offered a more detailed description of the possible role of Loggins, Hubbard, Collins, and Leslie Milam. Time Bomb and Dixon's articles had no lasting impact in the shaping of public opinion. Huie's article became the most commonly accepted version of events.

In 1957 Huie returned to the story for Look Magazine in an article which indicated that local residents were shunning Milam and Bryant and that their stores were closed due to a lack of business.

Milam died of cancer in 1980 and Bryant died of cancer in 1994. The men never expressed any remorse for Till's death and seemed to feel that they had done no wrong. In fact, a few months before he died, Bryant complained bitterly in an interview that he had never made as much money off Till's death as he deserved and that it had ruined his life. Mamie (as Mamie Till Mobley) outlived them, dying at the age of 81 on January 6, 2003. That same year her autobiography Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America (One World Books, co-written with Christopher Benson) was published.

In 1991, a seven-mile stretch of 71st street in Chicago was renamed "Emmett Till Road," after the slain boy. In 2006 a Mississippi historical marker marking the place of Till's death was defaced, and in August 2007 it went missing.[9] Less than a week later a replica was put up in its place.[10]

In 2001, David T. Beito, associate professor at the University of Alabama and Linda Royster Beito, chair of the department of social sciences at Stillman College, were the first investigators in many decades to track down and interview on tape two key principals in the case: Henry Lee Loggins and Willie Reed. They were doing research for their biography of T.R.M. Howard. In his interview with the Beitos, Loggins denied that he had any knowledge of the crime or that he was one of the black men on the truck outside of the equipment shed near Drew. Reed repeated his testimony at the trial that he had seen three black men and four white men (including J.W. Milam) on the truck. When asked to identify the black men, however, he did not name Loggins as one of them. The Beitos also confirmed that Levi 'Too-Tight' Collins, another black man allegedly on this car, had died in 1993.

emmettgraveIn 1996, Keith Beauchamp started background research for a feature film he planned to make about Till's murder, and asserted that as many as 14 individuals may have been involved. While conducting interviews he also encountered eyewitnesses who had never spoken out publicly before. As a result he decided to produce a documentary instead, and spent the next nine years creating The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till. The film led to calls by the NAACP and others for the case to be reopened. The documentary included lengthy interviews with Loggins and Reed, both of whom the Beitos had first tracked down and interviewed in 2001. Loggins repeated his denial of any knowledge of the crime. Beauchamp has consistently refused to name the fourteen individuals who he asserts took part in the crime, including the five who he claims are still alive.

On May 10, 2004, the United States Department of Justice announced that it was reopening the case to determine whether anyone other than Milam and Bryant was involved. Although the statute of limitations prevented charges being pursued under federal law, they could be pursued before the state court, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and officials in Mississippi worked jointly on the investigation. As no autopsy had been performed on Till's body, it was exhumed on May 31, 2005 from the suburban Chicago cemetery where it was buried, and the Cook County coroner then conducted the autopsy. The body was reburied by relatives on June 4. It has been positively identified as that of Emmett Till.

In February 2007, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported that both the FBI and a Leflore County Grand Jury, which was empaneled by Joyce Chiles, a black prosecutor, had found no credible basis for Keith Beauchamp's claim that 14 individuals took part in Till's abduction and murder or that any are still alive. The Grand Jury also decided not to pursue charges against Carolyn Bryant Donham, Roy Bryant's ex wife. Neither the FBI nor the Grand Jury found any credible evidence that Henry Lee Loggins, now living in an Ohio nursing home, and identified by Beauchamp as a suspect who could be charged, had any role in the crime. Other than Loggins, Beauchamp still refuses to name the 14 people who he says were involved although the FBI and District Attorney have completed their investigations of his charges and he is free to go on the record. A story by Jerry Mitchell in the Clarion-Ledger on February 18 describes Beauchamp's allegation that 14 or more were involved as a "legend."

The same article also labels as "legend" a rumor that Till had endured castration at the hands of his victimizers. The castration theory was first put forward uncritically in Beauchamp's "Untold Story" although Mamie Till-Mobley (Emmett's mother) had said in an earlier documentary directed by Stanley Nelson, "The Murder of Emmett Till," (2003) that her son's genitals were intact when she examined the corpse. The recent autopsy, as reported by Mitchell, confirmed Mobley-Till's original account and showed no evidence of castration.

In March 2007, Till's family was briefed by the FBI on the contents of its investigation. The FBI report released on March 29, 2007 found that Till died of a gunshot wound to the head and that he had broken wrist bones and skull and leg fractures.

"Twas down in Mississippi no so long ago,
When a young boy from Chicago town stepped through a Southern door.
This boy's dreadful tragedy I can still remember well,
The color of his skin was black and his name was Emmett Till.

Some men they dragged him to a barn and there they beat him up.
They said they had a reason, but I can't remember what.
They tortured him and did some evil things too evil to repeat.
There was screaming sounds inside the barn, there was laughing sounds out on the street.

Then they rolled his body down a gulf amidst a bloody red rain
And they threw him in the waters wide to cease his screaming pain.
The reason that they killed him there, and I'm sure it ain't no lie,
Was just for the fun of killin' him and to watch him slowly die.

And then to stop the United States of yelling for a trial,
Two brothers they confessed that they had killed poor Emmett Till.
But on the jury there were men who helped the brothers commit this awful crime,
And so this trial was a mockery, but nobody seemed to mind.

I saw the morning papers but I could not bear to see
The smiling brothers walkin' down the courthouse stairs.
For the jury found them innocent and the brothers they went free,
While Emmett's body floats the foam of a Jim Crow southern sea.

If you can't speak out against this kind of thing, a crime that's so unjust,
Your eyes are filled with dead men's dirt, your mind is filled with dust.
Your arms and legs they must be in shackles and chains, and your blood it must refuse to flow,
For you let this human race fall down so God-awful low!

This song is just a reminder to remind your fellow man
That this kind of thing still lives today in that ghost-robed Ku Klux Klan.
But if all of us folks that thinks alike, if we gave all we could give,
We could make this great land of ours a greater place to live.

inviata da C.Viadel - 22/12/2007 - 18:20

Lingua: Italiano

Versione italiana di Michele Murino
da Maggie's Farm

Avvenne giù nel Mississippi non molto tempo fa,
quando un ragazzo di Chicago
passò una frontiera a Sud.
La spaventosa tragedia di questo ragazzo me la ricordo ancora bene,
il colore della sua pelle era nero
ed il suo nome era Emmett Till

Dei tipi lo portarono in una baracca
e cominciarono a picchiarlo.
Dissero di avere una buona ragione per farlo, ma non mi ricordo qual era.
Lo torturarono e gli fecero delle cose troppo malvagie per essere menzionate.
Ci furono urla che provenivano dalla baracca,
ci furono risa nella strada.

Poi fecero rotolare il suo corpo giù in una baia
sotto una pioggia rosso sangue
E lo buttarono nelle acque profonde
perché smettesse di gridare il proprio dolore.
Il motivo per cui lo uccisero,
e sono sicuro che è la verità,
fu solo per il divertimento di farlo
e di vederlo lentamente morire.

Poi perché gli Stati Uniti cessassero di reclamare un processo
due fratelli confessarono di aver ucciso il povero Emmett Till.
Ma nella giuria ci furono uomini che avevano aiutato i due fratelli
a commettere il loro orribile delitto
E così il processo fu una messinscena
anche se a nessuno sembrò importare

Lessi i giornali del mattino ma non sopportai di vedere
i due fratelli sorridenti mentre scendevano le scale del tribunale.
La giuria li giudicò innocenti ed i fratelli furono messi in libertà,
mentre il corpo di Emmett Till galleggia nella corrente di un mare del sud.

Se non siete in grado di protestare contro una cosa simile,
un delitto così odioso,
i vostri occhi sono pieni di terra sepolcrale
la vostra mente è coperta di polvere.
Le vostre braccia e le vostre gambe devono essere in ceppi e catene
ed il vostro sangue si rifiuta di scorrere
Perchè avete lasciato che questa razza umana
degenerasse in maniera così orribile!

Questa canzone è solo un monito per ricordare al vostro prossimo
che questo genere di cose ancora avvengono nello spettrale costume del Ku-Klux-Klan
Ma se tutti noi che la pensiamo allo stesso modo
diamo tutto quello che possiamo
faremo di questa grande nostra terra
un posto migliore per vivere

22/12/2007 - 21:39

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