A Death in the Delta
The Story of Emmett Till
In August 1955, the mutilated body of Emmett Till—a fourteen-year-old black Chicago youth—was pulled from Mississippi's Tallahatchie River. Abducted, severely beaten, and finally thrown into the river with a weight fastened around his neck with barbed wire, Till, an eighth-grader, was killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. The nation was horrified by Till's death. When the all-white, all-male jury hastily acquitted the two white defendants, the outcry reached a frenzied pitch—spurring a fury that would prove critical in the mobilization of black resistance to white racism in the Deep South.
In this sensitive inquiry, historian Stephen J. Whitfield probes Till's death; its ideological roots; the potent myths concerning race, sexuality, and violence; and the incident's enduring effects on American national life. As he recreates the trial, its participants, and the social structure of the Delta, Whitfield examines how white rural Mississippians actually tried "two of their own." Though they were acquitted, these same defendants were soon being ostracized by their own neighbors, and within four months of Till's death, Southern blacks were staging the historic Montgomery bus boycott—the first major battle in the coming war against racial injustice that would lead to the passage of civil rights legislation a decade later.
About the Author
Stephen J. Whitfield is the Max Richter Chair in American Civilization at Brandeis University. He is the author of A Critical American: The Politics of Dwight Macdonald and The Culture of the Cold War.
"Till's sensational case, succinctly reported here, imparted a crucially vital impulse to the civil rights movement of the '60s."
"Whitfield... is able to write with power, strength, and persuasion."
"A brilliant piece of work—the definitive book on the Till case."
"A powerful recreation of a terrifying episode in American race relations... Evocatively written and intellectually engaging, this book will appeal to anyone interested in understanding the roots of our continuing racial dilemma."
|Johns Hopkins University Press|
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