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In Remembrance of Emmett Till

Regional Stories and Media Responses to the Black Freedom Struggle

On August 28, 1955, fourteen-year-old Chicago native Emmett Till was brutally beaten to death for allegedly flirting with a white woman at a grocery store in Money, Mississippi. Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam were acquitted of murdering Till and dumping his body in the Tallahatchie River, and later that year, an all-white grand jury chose not to indict the men on kidnapping charges. A few months later, Bryant and Milam admitted to the crime in an interview with the national media. They were never convicted.

Although Till's body was mutilated, his mother ordered that his casket remain open during the funeral service so that the country could observe the results of racially motivated violence in the Deep South. Media attention focused on the lynching fanned the flames of regional tension and impelled many individuals—including Rosa Parks—to become vocal activists for racial equality.

In this innovative study, Darryl Mace explores media coverage of Till's murder and provides a close analysis of the regional and racial perspectives that emerged. He investigates the portrayal of the trial in popular and black newspapers in Mississippi and the South, documents posttrial reactions, and examines Till's memorialization in the press to highlight the media's role in shaping regional and national opinions. Provocative and compelling, In Remembrance of Emmett Till provides a valuable new perspective on one of the sparks that ignited the civil rights movement.

About the Author

Darryl Mace is associate professor and chair in the Department of History and Political Science at Cabrini College. He lives in Coatesville, Pennsylvania.

Reviews

"Well-conceived and well-executed. Mace delineates the 'situational' regionalism that arose during the Emmett Till Coverage, that it was not static, but rather the coverage was a response to people's views of the place in which they lived and how their locale compared to the rest of the nation. This book provides a textual analysis of the coverage of Emmett Till's lynching, funeral, trial, post-trial reactions; and memorials of Till found in popular mainstream newspapers and popular black newspapers."—Deborah F. Atwater, author of The Rhetoric of African American Women

"Mace's writing is clear and accessible. He offers interesting and valuable insight into the varied media coverage of Emmett Till's lynching and what it illustrates about racial attitudes across the country."—Emilye Crosby, author of A Little Taste of Freedom and editor of Civil Rights History from the Ground Up

"Historians have long-agreed with David Halberstam that the lynching of Emmett Till and the trial of his murderers was 'the first great media event of the civil rights movement.' Until now, however, no one has made the case as thoroughly and persuasively as Darryl Mace does in this landmark study. His exhaustive analysis of the national and regional newspaper coverage is a model of careful and creative scholarship, and if you want to understand how the Till lynching helped to change our national conversation about race, you would do well to begin here."—Christopher Metress, editor of The Lynching of Emmett Till: A Documentary Narrative

"Mace gives readers ample opportunity to understand why Till's violent death wasn't just "another senseless murder," why the U.S. was ripe for Civil Rights progress made in the decade after his slaying; and how the press, especially sixty years ago, served its public."—Terri Schilenmeyer, Tennessee Tribune

"He reminds us just how important the Till murder and trial were for the future of the Freedom Struggle [Mace] still helps keep this story alive."—Southern Spaces

"[A] much-needed addition to the Till literature [. . . .] by the time I finished In Remembrance of Emmett Till, I was struck, powerfully so, by the impact of racism rather than regionalism on the writing of Emmett Till's memory."—American Historical Review

"Darryl Mace provides a new perspective on how to reengage this history on the sixtieth anniversary of Till's untimely death. Mace analyzes the role of print media to provide a nuanced look at Till's murder and its aftermath. His analysis is grounded in national context that examines how each region of the country covered the murder."—Journal of Southern History

"Mace's work [. . .] adds great depth to our understanding of the case by demonstrating how media portrayals subtly shaped the public's perceptions. An important contribution to civil rights scholarship that combines historical research with media studies, In Remembrance of Emmett Till represents a landmark account of one of the defining moments in America's tortured past."—Arkansas Review

"What In Remembrance of Emmett Till does best is demonstrate how journalists can both provide seemingly accurate reporting all the while encasing those reports within distinctively regional prejudices, and that contribution is long overdue in the field. [Mace] grounds his conclusions about regional attitudes toward race and gender on an extensive body of source material. Overall [the book] offers a new look at print media coverage of Till's murder, his funeral, and his murders' trial, demonstrating the forms of racism that operated not only in the South but also across the nation."—Louisiana History Review

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Hardback
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