The Black Community in America, for ages, have inarguably been subjugated to several instances of systematic violence by the white man. From slavery and segregation in the past to the numerous instances of racial discrimination and police brutality of the present, it seems as though has found itself right in the middle of a battle against hardship, oppression, and prejudice.
Emmett Louis Till
One name that stands out in the long, drawn-out ruthless persecution against African Americans in the United States would definitely be Emmett Louis Till. Emmett was only a teenager, just fourteen-years-old, when he was abducted, brutally beaten, killed and lynched by a group of men on August 28th, 1955. He was accused of behaving inappropriately towards Carolyn Bryant, an older white woman who worked at a grocery store. Reportedly, Emmett made vulgar advances, whistled and flirted with the woman, inciting a racially driven murder.
His aggressors were Bryant’s husband and his brother, and allegedly, two other hired back men. They kidnapped him, stripped the boy bear, gouged his eyes out, and beat him beyond recognition before shooting him in the head and throwing his disfigured body in the Tallahatchie River. The main accused were later, in that very same year, acquitted and cleared of all charges by an all white, all male jury. Three decades after this incident, Carolyn Bryant admitted that she had fabricated most of the story.
The Significance Of An Open Casket
Emmett’s mother decided to have a public open casket funeral for her only son, displaying his barely recognizable body for all to see, with hopes to spread awareness of the dangers something as trivial as the color of one’s skin can bring, and of the sick, entrenched bigotry that plagued the deep south, that was so innate to daily life, that most had become desensitized to such instances of targeted violence. It worked. Thousands attended his funeral, and pictures of his mutilated corpse were published in several newspapers and magazines.
The Civil Rights Movement
This was one among many similar incidents that spearheaded the Civil Rights Movement, where people of all races, both black and white, gathered together to protest against the lack of black rights, especially in the South. During the time of Emmett Till’s death, the Jim Crow Laws were still in place. They were enforced in all the way back in 1877, during the post-Civil War Era. These laws essentially legalized racial segregation. They were highly one-sided and were used to legally subjugate, marginalize and oppress African Americans. These laws pushed the black community into the lowest rungs of society and made sure they stayed there. They affected every area of their lives, dictating everything from how much a black man could earn, to where he could sit. Racial mixing was highly discouraged. Any defiance was met with serious repercussions. Unlawful and uncalled for lynchings, like in the case of Emmett, were especially common. Slavery was long over, but these segregation laws, that were in place for a century, only reinforced and reinstated white supremacy.
Emmett Till And Rosa Parks
Emmett Till’s death took place only a few months before Rosa Parks triggered the Montgomery Bus Boycotts. Both these incidents were pivotal in garnering black support and white sympathy, and galvanizing the Civil Rights Movement, which would eventually lead to the end of the racial segregation laws, a decade later, the effects of which still linger today.