Tag Archives: Black History

Emmett Louis Till

Emmett Louis Till

Emmylou Harris…”My Name Is Emmett Till”
In the mid-20th century, most Americans worried about atomic weapons.

Today the fear of terrorism has replaced our fear of an atomic apocalypse...mostly.

We consider terrorists  foreigners.  Of course there have been example of domestic terrorism and throughout American histroy a whole class of Americans were under the constant fear of domestic terrorists, vigilante injustice, lynching.

Emmett Louis Till Emmett Louis Till

The story of Emmett Till is one of the better known examples of the thousands of black Americans who were mistreated, tortured, and killed by domestic terrorists.

There are many articles and books about Emmett Till and the horrors that surround his final moments. This piece is simply a chronological listing of his final days and the decades of injustice that followed.

Reverend George Lee

Emmett Louis Till

On May 7, 1955 the Reverend George Lee, a grocery owner and NAACP field worker in Belzoni, Mississippi, was shot and killed at point blank range while driving in his car after trying to vote. At his funeral, Lee’s widow ordered his casket be opened to show the effects of shotgun pellets to the face—a rebuttal to the official version that Lee died in a car accident. Shortly before his death Lee had preached, “Pray not for your mom and pop—they’ve gone to heaven. Pray you can make it through this hell.”  (see May 31)

Moses Wright

Emmett Louis Till

In early August 1955 Emmett Till's great uncle Moses Wright had traveled from Mississippi to Chicago to visit family. At the end of his stay, Wright planned to take Till's cousin, Wheeler Parker, back to Mississippi with him to visit relatives. Emmett learned of these plans he begged his mother to let him go along. Initially, Mamie Till said no. She wanted to take a road trip to Omaha, Nebraska and attempted to lure Till to join her with the promise of open-road driving lessons. But Till desperately wanted to spend time with his cousins in Mississippi. She gave permission.

Emmett Till

Emmett Louis Till

August 19, 1955: Till’s mother gave Emmett his late father's signet ring, engraved with the initials L.T.  Louis Till had died in 1945 while a private in Europe during World War II. 

August 20, 1955: Mamie Till drove her son to the 63rd Street station in Chicago. They kissed goodbye and Till boarded a southbound train headed for Mississippi. 

August 21, 1965: Till arrived in Money, Mississippi to stay at the home of his great uncle Moses Wright. 

Bryant’s Grocery

Emmett Louis Till

August 24, 1955: Emmett Till and a group of teenagers entered Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market in Money, Mississippi to buy refreshments after a long day picking cotton in the hot afternoon sun. Till purchased bubble gum, and some of the kids with him would later report that he either whistled at, flirted with, or touched the hand of the store's white female clerk—and wife of the owner—Carolyn Bryant. 
Emmitt Till murdered
August 28, 1955: at approximately 2:30 AM Roy Bryant, Carolyn's husband, and his half brother J.W. Milam kidnapped Emmett Till from Moses Wright's home. They then brutally beat, dragged him to the bank of the Tallahatchie River, shot him in the head, tied him with barbed wire to a large metal fan, and shoved his mutilated body into the water. 

Moses Wright reported Till's disappearance to the local authorities. 

August 29, 1955:  authorities arrested J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant on kidnapping charges. They are jailed in Greenwood, Mississippi and held without bond. (see Aug 31)

August 31, 1955: Emmett Till's decomposed corpse was pulled from Mississippi's Tallahatchie River. Moses Wright identifies the body from a ring with the initials L.T.

September 1, 1955: Mississippi Governor Hugh White ordered  local officials to "fully prosecute" Milam and Bryant.

Emmett Till’s return to Chicago

Emmett Louis Till

September 2, 1955: in Chicago, Mamie Till arrived at the Illinois Central Terminal to receive Emmett's casket. Family and media surround her. She collapsed when she saw the casket. 

September 3, 1955: as mentioned above, in May the widow of Reverend George Lee had decided to have an open casket for her  husband. 

Mamie Till decided to do the same. "Let the people see what they did to my boy!"

Thousands waited in line to see Emmett's brutally beaten body.

Emmett Louis Till

September 6, 1955: Emmett Till was buried at Burr Oak Cemetery. 
Indictment for murder and trial
September 7, 1955: A Tallahatchie County grand jury indicted Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam for the murder and kidnapping of Emmett Till. Conviction on either charge could carry the death penalty. They both plead innocent and remain in jail until the start of the trial.

September 19, 1955: the murder trial (only) began in Sumner, Mississippi, the county seat of Tallahatchie County. Jury selection began. Law banned any blacks and all women from serving. The 12-man jury consisted of nine farmers, two carpenters and one insurance agent.

Mamie Till departed from Chicago's Midway Airport to attend the trial. (see Sept 20)

September 20, 1955: Judge Curtis Swango recessed the court to allow more witnesses to be found. It was the first time in Mississippi history that local law enforcement, local NAACP leaders, and black and white reporters had teamed up. They try to locate sharecroppers who saw Milam's truck and overheard Emmett being beaten.

September 21, 1955: Moses Wright accused the two white men in open court, an unthinkable thing to do in that place at that time. While on the witness stand, he stood up and pointed his finger at Milam and Bryant, and accused them of coming to his house and kidnapping Emmett.

September 22, 1955: the defense began presenting its witnesses. Carolyn Bryant testified outside the presence of the jury. Sheriff Strider testified that he thought the body pulled out of the river had been there "from ten to fifteen days," far too long to be that of Till. An embalmer testified that the body was "bloated beyond recognition."
Emmett Louis Till

September 23, 1955: after a 67-minute deliberation, the jury acquitted Milam and Bryant. One juror told a reporter that they wouldn't have taken so long if they hadn't stopped to drink pop. Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam stood before photographers, lighted up cigars, and kissed their wives in celebration.
Kidnapping charges dropped
Moses Wright and Willie Reed, another poor black Mississippian who testified, left Mississippi. Once there, Reed collapsed and suffered a nervous breakdown. (Reed, see July 18, 2013 below)

September 30, 1955: Milam and Bryant were released on bond. for the pending kidnapping charges.

November 9, 1955: returning to Mississippi one last time, Moses Wright and Willie Reed testified before a LeFlore County grand jury in Greenwood, Mississippi. The grand jury refused to indict Milam or Bryant for kidnapping. The two men go free.
The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi”

Emmett Louis Till

January 24, 1956: an article by William Bradford Huie in Look magazine appears. It is titled, "The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi." Protected by double-jeopardy,  Milam and Bryant admit to the murder. 

They detailed how they beat Till with a gun, shot him and threw his body in the Tallahatchie River with a heavy cotton-gin fan attached with barbed wire to his neck to weigh him down. The two killers were paid a reported $4,000 for their participation in the article.

January 22, 1957: Huie wrote another article for Look magazine, "What's Happened to the Emmett Till Killers?" Huie wrote that "Milam does not regret the killing, though it has brought him nothing but trouble." Blacks have stopped frequenting stores owned by the Milam and Bryant families and put them out of business. Bryant takes up welding for income, and the community ostracized both men .

E. Frederic Morrow

Emmett Louis Till

E. Frederic Morrow moved to the White House on July 10, 1955. He  was an aide to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and as such he became the first African-American to serve in that capacity. His autobiography vividly describes his difficulties in trying to persuade the administration to take a strong stand on civil rights. Morrow, for example, tried unsuccessfully to get President Eisenhower to issue a statement regarding Emmett Till's murder.  

Morrow did, however, finally convince Eisenhower to meet with civil rights leaders in the White House, a meeting that occurred on June 23, 1958. 

Deaths

December 31, 1980: J. W. Milam died in Mississippi of cancer.

September 1, 1994: Roy Bryant Sr., 63, died at the Baptist Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi of cancer.

January 6, 2003: Mamie Till Mobley died of heart failure, at age 81. Her death came just two weeks before The Murder of Emmett Till was to premiere nationally on PBS.
Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007
October 7, 2008: introduced in 2007, President Bush signed the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007.  It tasked the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the FBI with reviewing, investigating and assessing for prosecutive merit more than 100 unsolved civil rights era homicides.

Lil Wayne

February 13, 2013: Airickca Gordon-Taylor, director of the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation (founded in 2009), requested that Lil Wayne remove Emmett Till’s name from his verse on Future’s “Karate Chop.” Gordon-Taylor calls Wayne’s use of Till’s name “disappointing, dishonorable, and outright disrespectful to our family.”

Guesting on “Karate Chop,” a single by Atlanta rapper Future, Lil Wayne contributed the third verse of the remix, which began:
Pop a lot of pain pills

‘Bout to put rims on my skateboard wheels

Beat that p—y up like Emmett Till
February 18, 2013: Epic Records Chairman Antonio "L.A." Reid apologized to the Till family and said that his label was working to remove from circulation a remix of the track "Karate Chop."

Willie Reed dies

July 18, 2013: Willie Reed, who had changed his name to Willie Louis after the murder trial of Emmett Till and had moved to Chicago, died. Louis, one of the last living witnesses for the prosecution in the Till case, died in Oak Lawn, Ill., a Chicago suburb. He was 76.
Emmett Till Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act of 2016
December 16, 2016: President Obama signed the Emmett Till Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act of 2016. The Act allowed the Department of Justice and the FBI to reopen unsolved civil rights crimes.committed before 1980. The legislation is an expansion of a previous bill of a similar name signed into law in 2008.

Carolyn Bryant Donham admits lying

22,433 days days later

January 27, 2017: in a Vanity Fair magazine article, Duke University professor Timothy B. Tyson reported that Carolyn Bryant Donham (the woman who accused Till of inappropriate behavior) told him that the story she and others told about Emmett Till were false. Tyson wrote that Donham said of her long-ago allegations—that Emmett grabbed her and was menacing and sexually crude toward her--“that part is not true.” Tyson also wrote a book, The Blood of Emmett Till, about the murder.

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November 25

November 25

BLACK HISTORY & TERRORISM

November 25, 1915, : a cross was burned on Stone Mountain, Georgia, on this day, marking the revival of the Ku Klux Klan in the early 20th century. The Klan had been a powerful racist force during the Reconstruction Era in the South following the Civil War. It gradually faded away, but was revived as part of the racist mood of the country in the first decades of the century.

November 25, 1930: a delegation from the Anti-Lynching Congress, which was meeting in Washington, D.C., delivered a protest to President Herbert Hoover, demanding that he take action to end the lynching of African-Americans. The group was led by Maurice W. Spencer, president of the National Equal Rights League and Race Congress. President Hoover did not respond.

                Herbert Hoover was basically sympathetic to the needs of African-Americans in American society, but was not willing to expend any political capital on civil rights. He was very upset, for example, when Southern bigots protested when First Lady Lou Henry Hoover invited the wife of African-American Congressman Oscar DePriest to the White House for tea (along with all the other Congressional wives), on June 12, 1929. He responded by inviting Robert Moton, President of Tuskegee University, to the White House in a symbolic gesture.

BLACK HISTORY

November 25, 1955: the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), the federal agency that regulated railroads and other transporters of goods, banned racial segregation on interstate buses, train lines, and in waiting rooms. The ICC ruled that “the disadvantages to a traveler who is assigned accommodations or facilities so designated as to imply his inferiority solely because of his race must be regarded under present conditions as unreasonable.” The ban was consistent with a 1946 United States Supreme Court decision, Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia (see June 3, 1946), which held that a state law requiring segregation on interstate buses traveling through the state was unconstitutional.

                However, neither the Supreme Court decision nor the ICC ban covered intrastate travel, and 13 states still required segregation on buses and railways that traveled exclusively within state borders. Some of these states ignored the new ban on segregated interstate travel and continued to enforce unconstitutional laws. According to a report issued by the Public Affairs Research Committee in December 1957, police in Flomaton, Alabama, had been called to arrest African Americans traveling in the white section of an interstate railroad line. The report additionally found that employees of rail and bus lines in Alabama “have flagrantly segregated colored travelers or called police to arrest those who would not easily be intimidated where their rights were involved.”

                It was not until November 1961, six years after the ICC ban, that it was given force by order of the ICC and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, largely spurred by the Freedom Rides.

November 25, 1976, Thanksgiving Day: NYC  police officer Robert Torsney fired a bullet into the head of Randolph Evans, 15, outside a housing project in Brooklyn. Officer Torsney would later claim he had been afflicted with a rare form of epilepsy that had never been noticed before the killing and was never seen after it. The ''epilepsy'' defense worked. A jury acquittted  Torsney of any criminal wrongdoing.

November 25, 2006: a team of plainclothes and undercover NYPD officers shot a total of 50 times at  three men killing one of the men, Sean Bell, on the morning before his wedding, and severely wounding two of his friends.

November 25, 2015: Minneapolis police released the names of four men arrested in connection with a shooting during a Black Lives Matter protest outside a police station that injured five protesters. The authorities identified the suspects in the shooting as Allen Lawrence Scarsella, 23; Nathan Gustavsson, 21; Daniel Macey, 26; and Joseph Backman, 27. All were white.

FREE SPEECH

November 25, 1930, : an agent of the New England Watch and Ward Society purchased a copy of Lady Chatterly's Lover at the Dunster House Book shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts. James Delancy, the manager, and Joseph Sullivan, his clerk, were both convicted of selling obscene literature, a crime for which Mr. Delancy was fined $800. and assigned four months in the house of corrections while Mr. Sullivan was sentenced to two weeks in prison and a $200. fine.

US Labor History

November 25, 1946: teachers strike in St. Paul, Minn., the first organized walkout by teachers in the country. The month-long “strike for better schools” involving some 1,100 teachers—and principals—led to a number of reforms in the way schools were administered and operated.

Red Scare

November 25, 1947:  movie studio executives agreed to blacklist the Hollywood 10, who were jailed for contempt of Congress for failing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee.

November 25, 1956: the film Friendly Persuasion, starring Gary Cooper and later nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor, was released on this day — but without any screenwriter credit. The actual screenwriter was Michael Wilson, who had been blacklisted for refusing to cooperate with the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in September 1951. Hollywood motion picture companies refused to hire or credit people who did not cooperate with HUAC. The official blacklist began on December 3, 1947.

                Wilson’s screenwriting credit was restored in later versions of the film. Wilson also co-wrote the script for the award-winning Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), but was not listed on the credits. Wilson was posthumously awarded an Academy Award in 1995 for his work on the Bridge on the River Kwai.

                Wilson took his revenge for having been blacklisted when he wrote the script for Planet of the Apes (1968), which includes a scene that is a wicked parody of the House Un-American Activities Committee. In the scene, Charlton Heston has to stand naked and testify before what is, in effect, an Un-Ape Activities Committee.

Billboard #1

November 25 – December 1, 1967: “Incense and Peppermints” by the Strawberry Alarm Clock #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

November 25, 1969, President Nixon ordered all US germ warfare stockpiles destroyed.

INDEPENDENCE DAY

November 25, 1975, Suriname independent of Netherlands.

November 25, 1984: Band Aid recorded the charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" to raise money to combat the famine in Ethiopia. It is released December 3.

AIDS

November 25

November 25, 1985: Ryan White: Indiana Department of Education ruled that White must be admitted despite parent and government opposition.

 Iran–Contra Affair

November 25, 1986: the Iran-Contra affair erupted as President Reagan and Attorney General Edwin Meese revealed that profits from secret arms sales to Iran had been diverted to Nicaraguan rebels.

Jack Kevorkian

November 25, 1998, : Michigan charged Kevorkian with first-degree murder, violating the assisted suicide law and delivering a controlled substance without a license in the death of Thomas Youk. Prosecutors later drop the suicide charge. Kevorkian insists on defending himself during the trial and threatens to starve himself if he is sent to jail.

Terrorism

November 25, 2001: John Phillip Walker Lindh, a US citizen, was captured as an enemy combatant during the invasion of Afghanistan.

November 25, 2002: President Bush signed legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security.

November 25, 2003: Yemen arrested Mohammed Hamdi al-Ahdal, a top al-Qaida member suspected of masterminding the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole and the 2002 bombing of a French oil tanker off Yemen's coast.

LGBTQ

November 25, 2014, : U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker struck down Arkansas' gay marriage ban, which paved the way for county clerks to resume issuing licenses. Baker ruled in favor of two same-sex couples who had challenged a 2004 constitutional amendment and earlier state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, arguing that the ban violated the U.S. Constitution and discriminated based on sexual orientation.

November 25, 2014: U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled against Mississippi’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex couples from marrying.  Attorney Roberta Kaplan represented two plaintiff couples on behalf of Campaign for Southern Equality, arguing that Mississippi’s marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution. 

November 24

November 24

BLACK HISTORY

November 24, 1865: shortly after the end of the Civil War in 1865, Southern states sought to control and confine their large populations of newly-freed black people by passing laws that authorized their arrest and incarceration. These laws, known as “black codes,” typically applied only to black people and criminalized acts that were not offenses at all when committed by whites.

                In November and December 1865, the Mississippi legislature approved numerous black codes. One passed on November 24, 1865, declared that “all freedmen, free negroes and mulattoes” found without proof of employment or business or found “unlawfully assembling themselves” would be deemed vagrants and, upon conviction, owe up to $50 in fines and serve up to ten days in jail. The same law threatened whites with vagrancy convictions if found assembling or associating with freedmen “on terms of equality" or found “living in adultery” with a black partner. If convicted, whites faced up to $200 in fines and up to six months in jail.

                As a result of black codes like these in Mississippi, and similar laws passed during the same period in states throughout the South, the post-Civil War era brought American black people more contact with the criminal court and prison systems than ever before. As the former Confederacy learned to wield the criminal justice system as a tool of racial control, countless black men, women, and children were convicted and sentenced under unjust laws that criminalized them for existing as free, black citizens.

November 24, 1946: the issue of race discrimination in Washington theaters came to a head, it was reported on this day, when the Dramatists Guild signed a contract with local theaters demanding that there be no racial discrimination “on either side of the footlights.”

                The issue of race discrimination in the nation’s capital had been brewing since the great African-American singer Marian Anderson was denied use of Constitution Hall by the hall’s owners, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). That controversy ended when the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt granted permission to hold the concert at the Lincoln Memorial, on April 9, 1939. The concert is regarded as a historic event in the history of racial equality in the U.S. 

US Labor History

November 24, 1875: the United Cigar Makers of New York affiliated with the Cigar Makers’ International Union (CMIU) to form CMIU Local 144. Samuel Gompers was elected first president of the local and served several terms before going on to serve as the international’s vice president. “[W]e are powerless in an isolated condition,” Gompers said, “while the capitalists are united; therefore it is the duty of every Cigar Maker to join the organization.”

Edwards v. California

November 24, 1941 in Edwards v. California the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a California law barring indigents from entering the state. California passed the law during the Depression in an effort to keep poor migrants out of the state and thereby avoid the costs of public relief.

                The Court majority held that the law violated the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Justices William O. Douglas, joined by Hugo Black, Frank Murphy and Robert Jackson, however, argued that the law violated the Privileges and Immunities clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

                Justice Douglas in dissent: “. . . I am of the opinion that the right of persons to move freely from State to State occupies a more protected position in our constitutional system than does the movement of cattle, fruit, steel and coal across state lines . . . The conclusion that the right of free movement is a right of national citizenship stands on firm historical ground.”

November 24

Hollywood Ten

November 24, 1947: the House of Representatives issued citations for Contempt of Congress to the Hollywood Ten—John Howard Lawson, Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Adrian Scott, and Dalton Trumbo. They had refused to cooperate at hearings dealing with communism in the movie industry held by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). The "Hollywood 10," as the men were known, were sentenced to one year in jail. The Supreme Court later upheld the contempt charges.

Lee Harvey Oswald

November 24, 1963, Jack Ruby murdered Lee Harvey Oswald at the Dallas jail where Oswald is being held.

The Beatles

November 24

November 24, 1966, after live performances: began recording Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band.

November 24, 1973: Ringo Starr becomes the third former Beatle to earn a solo #1 hit when "Photograph" tops the Billboard Hot 100 

My Lai Massacre

November 24, 1969: U.S. Army officials announced that 1st Lt. William Calley would be court-martialed for the premeditated murder of 109 Vietnamese civilians at My Lai. Army Secretary Stanley Resor and Army Chief of Staff William C. Westmoreland announced the appointment of Lt. Gen. William R. Peers to "explore the nature and scope" of the original investigation of the My Lai slayings in April 1968. The initial probe, conducted by the unit involved in the affair, concluded that no massacre occurred and that no further action was warranted.

Marijuana

November 24

November 24, 1976, : a Washington, DC Robert Randall, afflicted by glaucoma, employed the little-used Common Law Doctrine of Necessity to defend himself against criminal charges of marijuana cultivation (US v. Randall). On November 24, 1976, federal Judge James Washington ruled Randall's use of marijuana constituted a 'medical necessity...'

                Judge Washington dismissed criminal charges against Randall. Concurrent with this judicial determination, federal agencies responding to a May, 1976 petition filed by Randall, began providing this patient with licit, FDA-approved access to government supplies of medical marijuana. Randall was the first American to receive marijuana for the treatment of a medical disorder.

Nuclear & chemical weapons

November 24, 1987: the US and the Soviet Union agreed to scrap shorter- and medium-range missiles in the first superpower treaty to eliminate an entire class of nuclear weapons.

November 24, 2013: the US and five other world powers announced a landmark accord that would temporarily freeze Iran’s nuclear program and lay the foundation for a more sweeping agreement. It was the first time in nearly a decade, American officials said, that an international agreement had been reached to halt much of Iran’s nuclear program and roll some elements of it back.

                In return for the initial agreement, the US agreed to provide $6 billion to $7 billion in sanctions relief. Of this, roughly $4.2 billion would be oil revenue that has been frozen in foreign banks.

Crime and Punishment

November 24, 2015: Governor Steve Beshear, Democrat of Kentucky, issued an executive order restoring voting rights for nonviolent ex-felons who had completed their sentences. The order gave 170,000 ex-offenders the opportunity to register to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.