REOPENING THE EMMETT TILL CASE: LESSONS AND CHALLENGES FOR CRITICAL RACE PRACTICE

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1 REOPENING THE EMMETT TILL CASE: LESSONS AND CHALLENGES FOR CRITICAL RACE PRACTICE Oh, what sorrow, Pity, pain, That tears and blood Should mix like rain In Mississippi! And terror, fetid hot, Yet clammy cold Remain. 1 Margaret M. Russell* INTRODUCTION On May 10, 2004, the United States Department of Justice and the Mississippi District Attorney’s Office for the Fourth District * Professor of Law, Santa Clara University School ‘of Law. A.B., Princeton University; J.D., Stanford Law School; J.S.M., Stanford Law School. The author extends deep thanks to the following people for support ard assistance: symposium organizer Sheila Foster; symposium co-panelists Anthony Aifieri, Sherrilyn Ifill, and Terry Smith; research assistants Rowena Joseph and Ram Fletcher (both of the Santa Clara University School of Law, Class of 2005); research assistant Daniel Lam (Georgetown University Law Center, Class of 2006); Lee Halterman; Kimiko Russell- Halterman; Donald Polden; and Stephanie Wildman. The following entities deserve special praise for sponsoring this symposium: the Fordham Law Review and Fordham University School of Law’s Louis Stein Center for Law & Ethics. Finally, I am grateful to the Santa Clara University School of Law, particularly the Center for Social Justice & Public Service, for supporting the research project that produced this Essay. The author dedicates this Essay to the memory of Herman Levy, colleague extraordinaire. 1. Langston Hughes, Mississippi-1955 (1955), reprinted in The Lynching of Enumett Till: A Documentary Narrative 294 (Christopher Metress ed., 2002) [hereinafter The Lynching of Emmett Till]; see also Christopher Metress, Langston Hughes’s “Mississippi-1955”: A Note on Revisions and an Appeal for Reconsideration, 37 Afr.-Am. Rev. 139 (2003). A slightly different version of Hughes’s poem was first published less than a month after Till’s murder as part of Hughes’s weekly column in the Chicago Defender, a leading African-American newspaper. Hughes’s column called for a Congressional investigation into Till’s murder and criticized Congress for neglecting to investigate other Southern lynchings. See Langston Hughes, Editorial, Langston Hughes Wonders Why No Lynchings Probes, Chi. Defender, Oct. 1, 1935 [hereinafter Langston Hughes, Editorial]. For further examples of the enormous, and continuing, impact of the murder on American literature and culture, see infra note 20 and accompanying text, and see also generally The Lynching of Emmett Till, supra. 2101

2 2102 FORDHAM LAWREVIEW [Vol. 73 announced the opening of a new investigation into the 1955 murder of Emmett Till. 2 This internationally known case involved a fourteen year old African-American boy from Chicago who was visiting relatives in Mississippi when he was abducted from his bed at gunpoint in the middle of, the night.3. Three days later,. a boy on a fishing trip in the Tallahatchie River found his corpse-battered, mutilated, shot, and weighted down with a seventy-five pound cotton gin fan. Based on eyewitness testimony about Till’s abduction and an identification of his body by his uncle and mother, Tallahatchie County tried two local white men, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, for the murder. After five days of trial, a jury of twelve white men deliberated for sixty-seven minutes and voted to acquit. Shortly thereafter, the freed Bryant and Milam sold their “confession” to the murder, in the form of a detailed, gloating testimonial, to Look magazine for $ Press Release, U.S. Department of Justice, Justice Department to Investigate 1955 Emmett Till Murder (May 10, 2004), available at The announcement of the reopening was widely reported. See, e.g., Department of Justice Briefing with R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Re: Reopening of the Investigation into the 1955 Murder of Emmett Till, Federal News Service, May 10, 2004, LEXIS, News Library, FEDNEW file [hereinafter Acosta Briefing]; Justice Department to Investigate 1955 Emmett Till Murder, Jet, May 24, 2004, at 4; Editorial, What Happened to Emmett Till?, N.Y. Times, May 12, 2004, at A22; Ellen Barry, Counting on Time to Break a Silence; Justice Department’s Reopening of the 1955 Murder Case of Emmett Till Hinges on Black and White Witnesses Telling Long-Kept Secrets, L.A. Times, May 18, 2004, at A12; Justin Ewers, In Pursuit of Justice, U.S. News & World Rep., May 24, 2004, at 64; Eric Lichtblau & Andrew Jacobs, U.S. Reopens ’55 Murder Case, Flashpoint of Civil Rights Era, N.Y. Times, May 11, 2004, at Al. 3. Certain basic facts of the Till case, as outlined briefly here, have long been well known and are extensively documented. This summary of the case is drawn generally from two sources. The Lynching of Emmett Till, suzpra note 1; Stephen J. Whitfield, A Death in the Delta: The Story of Emmett Till (1988). A particularly detailed account of the case and its historical context is a 1963 unpublished master’s thesis. Hugh Stephen Whitaker, A Case Study in Southern Justice: The Emmett Till Case (1963) (unpublished M.A. thesis, Florida State University), available at see also Chris Crowe, Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case (2003); John Dittmer, Local People, the Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi (1994); David Halberstam, The Fifties (1993); Paul Hendrickson, Sons of Mississippi: A Story of Race and Its Legacy (2003); Clenora Hudson-Weems, Emmett Till: The Sacrificial Lamb of the Civil Rights Movement (1994); Nicholas Lemann, The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America (1991); Leon F. Litwack, Trouble in Mind: Black Southemers in the Age of Jim Crow (1998); Bill Minor, Eyes on Mississippi: A Fifty-Year Chronicle of Change (2001); Howell Raines, My Soul Is Rested: Movement Days in the Deep South Remembered (1977); Mamie Till- Mobley & Christopher Benson, Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime that Changed America (2003): Juan Williams, Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, , at 37 (1987) (companion volume to the PBS television series). Other facts about the case-most notably, exactly what happened when Till was in the convenience store with Carolyn Bryant-are in dispute. See infra notes and accompanying text.

3 2005] REOPENING THE EMMETT TILL CASE 2103 The killers’ admission, published only five months after the slaying, was generally consistent with the theory presented at trial: that they had murdered Emmett Till for flirting with Bryant’s wife, Carolyn, as she worked at the Bryants’ convenience store in Money, Mississippi. Roy Bryant had been out of town at the time, but when he returned and heard the story, he enlisted his half-brother Milam to exact revenge. In their admission, Bryant and Milam said that their initial intention in kidnapping Till was to “just whip him… and scare some sense into him.” 4 However, Till’s apparent fearlessness, even after severe beatings, irked the men into going further. Milam explained that: Well, what else could we do? He was hopeless. I’m no bully; I never hurt a nigger in my life. I like niggers-in their place-i know how to work ’em. But I just decided it was time a few people got put on notice. As long as I live and I can do anything about it, niggers are gonna stay in their place. Niggers ain’t gonna vote where I live. If they did, they’d control the government. They ain’t gonna go to school with my kids. And when a nigger even gets close to mentioning sex with a white woman, he’s tired o’ livin’. I’m likely to kill him. Me and my folks fought for this country, and we’ve got some rights. I stood there in that shed and listened to that nigger throw that poison at me, and I just made up my mind. “Chicago boy,” I said, “I’m tired of ’em sending your kind down here to stir up trouble. Goddam you, I’m going to make an example of you-just so everybody can know how me and my folks stand.” 5 According to Mlam and Bryant, they then drove Till to a steep bank of the Tallahatchie River, ordered him to strip, shot him in the head, barb-wired the gin fan to his neck, and rolled him into twenty feet of water. 6 Given the clear-cut finality of the acquittal and post-acquittal admission, why would federal and state prosecutors decide to reopen the case nearly fifty years later? Bryant and Milam are long gone; 7 their culpability is not in question. What motivates the prosecutors’ decision that something new can and should be accomplished? The answers to these questions are both simple and complex. On a conventional, legalistic level, the prosecutorial decision to reopen is based on newly discovered evidence of additional eyewitnesses and living potential defendants.’ Two filnimakers, Stanley Nelson 9 and 4. William Bradford Huie, The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi, Look, Jan. 24, 1956, reprinted in 1 Reporting Civil Rights: American Journalism , at 238 (Clayborne Carson et al. eds., 2003). 5. Id. at Id. at Milam died in 1981, and Bryant died in See Hendrickson, supra note 3, atil. 8. In his work on the ethical exercise of prosecutorial discretion in cases of racial violence, Anthony Alfieri categorizes this type of reopening as the “easy,” evidence-

4 2104 FORDHAM LAWREVIEW [Vol. 73 Keith Beauchamp,” separately identified new eyewitnesses while making -their respective documentaries about the Till case. Beauchamp’s investigative efforts over a nine-year period proved particularly salient in locating individuals whose recollections suggest the involvement.of several additional observers or participants; he noted that, at a certain point, “I realized *that I wasn’t doing interviews-i was taking depositions.”‘” Beauchamp’s evidence proved to be the ultimate catalyst for the decision to reopen.1 2 A more complex set of reasons for the reopening stems from the emblematic significance of the case itself. In announcing the involvement of federal prosecutors, Assistant Attorney General R. Alexander Acosta noted that f[t]he murder of Emmett Till stands at the crossroads of the American civil rights movement,” and was a “brutal murder and grotesque miscarriage of justice [that] moved this nation.”‘ 3 He observed that the Till case helped “launcho the modern [American] civil rights movement.”‘ 4 At the end of his statement, Acosta concluded that “[w]e owe it to Emmett Till, we owe it to his mother and to his family, and we owe it to ourselves to see if, after all these years, any additional measure of justice is still possible.”‘” driven case: “Under standard discretion, easy cases for retrial emerge from supervening events material to the outcome of prior prosecutions, such as the discovery of new physical evidence, the identification of new witnesses, and the belated proffer of inculpating confessions.” Anthony V. Alfieri, Retrying Race, 101 Mich. L. Rev. 1141, 1142 (2003). Alfieri contrasts these cases with “hard” cases in which prosecutors, lacking new evidence, nevertheless “grasp the elusive opportunity to right historical wrongs committed in aborted or failed criminal and civil rights prosecutions.” Id. The Till reopening seems to be an example of both categories. 9. Nelson’s hour-long documentary, The Murder of Emmett Till, was first broadcast in January 2003 as part of the PBS American Experience series. See American Experience, The Murder of Emmett.Till, The Film & More, at (last visited Feb. 14, 2005) (transcript and related materials on the Till case) Beauchamp’s slightly longer documentary, The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, was screened as a “work-in-progress” for several years beginning in 2001 in connection with Beauchamp’s advocacy efforts to reopen the case; it is now complete. See The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, at (last visited Feb. 14, 2005) (website of Beauchamp’s Till Freedom Come Productions with details about the documentary and reopening advocacy efforts). 11. David Van Biema, Revisiting a Martyrdom, Time, May 24,2004, at 57 (internal quotations omitted). 12. See id.; see also Shelia Hardwell Byrd, Documentary Starting Point for Latest Till Probe, Democrat-Herald (Albany, N.Y.), May 12, 2004, available at Lichtblau & Jacobs, supra note Acosta Briefing, supra note Id. 15. Id.

5 2005] REOPENING THE EMMETT TILL CASE 2105 While some have questioned the timing and motivations of the Justice Department’s proclamation,” 6 theie is no disagreement with its assessment of the historic consequence of the death of Emmett Till. Till’s murder is one of the most infamous acts of racial violence in the history of the United States; it arose from.events “that,would forever change the way we talk about race in America.”” 7 His death and the ensuing trial attracted worldwide attention and outrage. His funeral drew mourners in numbers estimated to range from ten thousand to one hundred thousand,” 8 and his mother’s memorable insistence on an open-casket viewing resulted in widespread circulation of an unforgettable Jet magazine photo of his pulverized face. 1 9 A generation has grown up with the tragic image of Emmett Till’s defaced corpse etched in its memory. That image and its racial meaning have engendered countless works in politics, history, journalism, and the arts from the 1950s to the present. 20 Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, aided by scores of civil rights leaders, politicians, 16. Some suggested that the timing may have been a self-serving, election-year tactic for Ashcroft’s Justice Department. See Lichtblau & Jacobs, supra note 2; Margaret Kimberley, Freedom Rider: Emmett Till and Abu Ghraib, The Black Commentator, No. 91, May 20, 2004, available at rider.html. Others pointed out similarities between the state-sponsored brutality of the South in Till’s era and the state-sponsored violence at Abu Ghraib prison in See, e.g., Patricia J. Williams, Slow Motion, The Nation, June 14, 2004, at The Lynching of Emmett Till, supra note 1; at xiii. 18. Id. at See Hendrickson, supra note 3, at In addition to Langston Hughes’s poem cited supra note 1 and the works cited supra note 3, many other works respond to the Till case. See Gwendolyn Brooks, A Bronzeville Mother Loiters in Mississippi. Meanwhile, A Mississippi Mother Burns Bacon (1960), reprinted in The Lynching of Emmett Till, supra note 1, at 313; Audre Lorde, Afterimages (1981), reprinted in The Lynching of Emmett Till, supra note 1, at 323; Anthony Walton, The Lovesong of Emmett Till (1996), reprinted in The Lynching of Emmett Till, supra note 1, at 339. There were also a number of songs written in response to the Till case. See Bob Dylan, The Death of Emmett Till (1962), reprinted in The Lynching of Emmett Till, supra note 1, at 318; Langston Hughes & Jobe Huntley, The Money, Mississippi, Blues (1955), reprinted in The Lynching of Emmett Till, supra note 1, at 296; Russell Malone, Flowers for Emmett Till, on Russell Malone (Sony Records 1992); DI Nasty Knock, Emmett Till, on Sex (Street Street Records 1996). As mentioned in The Lynching of Emmett Till, supra note 1, at , the Till case inspired many plays, including James Baldwin, Blues for Mister Charlie (1964); David Barr, The State of Mississippi vs. Emmett Till (2000); Richard Davidson, Mississippi (1955); Ossie Davis & Ruby Dee, What Can You Say to Mississippi? (1956); and Toni Morrison, Dreaming Emmett (1986). Novels and fictional treatments include Bebe Moore Campbell, Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine (1992); Chris Crowe, Mississippi Trial, 1955 (2002); and Lewis Nordan, Wolf Whistle (1993). Memoirs and essays include Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice (1968); Mrs. Medgar Evers & William Peters, For Us, the Living (1967); William Bradford Huie, Wolf Whistle and Other Stories (1959), excerpted in The Lynching of Emmett Till, supra note 1, at 235; Anne Moody, Coming of Age in Mississippi (1968); Michael Eric Dyson, Remembering Emmett Till (1991), reprinted in The Lynching of Emmett Till, supra note 1, at 266; and John Edgar Wideman, The Killing of Black Boys (1997), reprinted in The Lynching of Emmett Till, supra note 1, at 278.

6 2:L06 FORDHAM LAWREVIEW [Vol. 73 and artists, devoted the rest of her life to preserving her child’s legacy through public education and lobbying to reopen the case. 21 By the time that those efforts finally proved fruitful, the case of Emmett Till had become a symbol not only of this nation’s history of brutality against African-Americans, but also of the inadequacies of the American legal system in redressing past racial injustices. Using the Justice Department’s language as a starting point, it is useful to ask just what “additional measure of justice” is possible after so many years. 22 What notions of “justice” could be fulfilled today to compensate for such a grievous wrong? Could any outcome be meaningful in light of the passage of time? 23 Even, and perhaps especially, among the community that most ardently supported the reopening, there is a bittersweet sense of accomplishment. On the one hand, the decision is seen as a long-delayed opportunity for truth, justice, and closure. This viewpoint is reflected in the optimistic comments of public figures who urged reopening: “It is never too late for justice.” 2 4 “The sun of justice is shining bright.”‘ “I think that the time is always ripe to do right.” 26 “[N]ow, almost fifty years later, we have a chance to have justice done for Emmett Till.” 27 Others reacted to the reopening with more sobering, doubtful assessments: “Justice this delayed is justice denied. Fifty years later is an injustice.” 2 8 “[J]ustice unreasonably delayed is most likely justice miscarried.” 29 This spectrum of reactions reflects a common ambivalence in movements to revive long-dormant racial justice claims.3 0 Aspirations 21. Chicago Rep. Bobby L. Rush Calls for Emmett Till Murder Investigation, Jet, Mar. 8, 2004, at 36; Emmett Till: Blacks React to Reopening of Tragic Case, Jet, May 31,2004, at 6. Mamie Till-Mobley died in January Id. at Acosta Briefing, supra note These questions are also core concerns of the emerging transitional justice movement. See, e.g., Breaking the Cycles of Hatred: Memory, Law, and Repair (Martha Minow & Nancy L. Rosenblum eds., 2002); Impunity and Human Rights in International, Law and Practice (Naomi Roht-Arriaza ed., 1995); Martha Minow, Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History After Genocide and Mass Violence (1998); Naomi Roht-Arriaza, The Pinochet Effect: Transnational Justice in the Age of Human Rights (2004); Transitional Justice: How Emerging Democracies Reckon with Former Regimes (Neil J. Kritz ed., 1995); Transitional Justice and the Rule of Law in New Democracies (A. James McAdams ed., 1997); Truth v. Justice: The Morality of Truth Commissions (Robert I. Rotberg & Dennis Thompson eds., 2000); Richard Lewis Siegel, Transitional Justice: A Decade of Debate and Experience, 20 Hum. Rts. Q. 431 (1998). 24. Emmett Till: Blacks React to Reopening of Tragic Case, supra note 21, at 8 (quoting U.S. Congressman Bobby L. Rush). 25. Id. at 61 (quoting Alvin Sykes, president of the Emmett Till Justice Campaign, Inc.). 26. Id. (quoting television and radio talk show host Tavis Smiley). 27. Id. at 10 (quoting U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel). 28. Id. at 8 (quoting the Reverend Jesse Jackson). 29. Williams, supra note For a consideration of typical objections to reviving such claims, see Martha Minow, Foreword, Why Retry? Reviving Dormant Racial Justice Claims, 101 Mich. L. Rev (2003).

7 2005] REOPENING THE EMMETT TILL CASE 2107 to repair the past must always be tempered by the knowledge that deep memories prevail and that some injuries are irreparable. 3 ‘ In revisiting past racial injustices, it is important to remember that even the “cleansing moments” of new trials and convictions cannot wash away the residue of the past. 32 This pragmatic tension also lies at the heart of critical race theory, the literature of which reflects a multivalent set of dichotomies: racial optimism versus racial realism; idealism versus materialism; and racial healing versus sheer survival strategies.33 Much of critical race theory literature aims to acknowledge and dissect the ostensible contradictions of a liberation movement for social justice through law. Throughout critical race scholarship, one can discern modes of inquiry that are simultaneously skeptical and hopeful, practical and theoretical, deconstructionist and ultimately reconstructionist.3 4 A central goal is the development of different contexts and methodologies to reopen and revive questions of race. In a sense, the reopening and reconsideration of long-dormant cases such as Emmett Till’s can serve as a paradigm ‘for the re-examination of broader questions that lie at the heart of critical race theory and practice. This Symposium marks a rare and noteworthy opportunity to explore the collaborative possibilities between critical race theory and lawyering practice: critical race lawyering, or, critical race practice. Eric Yamamoto uses the terms “race praxis” and “critical race praxis”3 5 to discuss the methods by which the concepts of critical race 31. For discussions of the impact of war crimes and other state atrocities on the possibilities for forgiveness and repair, see generally Priscilla B. Hayner, Unspeakable Truths: Confronting State Terror and Atrocity (2001); Aryeh Neier, War Crimes: Brutality, Genocide, Terror, and the Struggle for Justice (1998); and Steven R. Ratner & Jason S. Abrams, Accountability for Human Rights Atrocities in International Law: Beyond the Nuremberg Legacy (2d ed. 2001). 32. When white supremacist Byron de la Beckwith was finally convicted in 1994 of the 1964 murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, Evers’ widow Myrlie Evers referred to the successful reprosecution as a “cleansing moment.” Ed Vulliamy, Deep South Confronts Murderous Past, Observer (London), Nov. 14, 1999, at 26; see also Margaret M. Russell, Cleansing Moments and Retrospective Justice, 101 Mich. L. Rev. 1225, (2003). 33. Now in its third decade, the literature of critical race theory is both voluminous and eclectic. See, e.g., Critical Race Feminism: A Reader (Adrien Katherine Wing ed., 1997); Critical Race Theory: An Introduction (Richard Delgado & Jean Stefancic eds., 2001); Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge (Richard Delgado ed., 1995); Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement (Kimberle Crenshaw et al. eds., 1995); Crossroads, Directions, and a New Critical Race Theory (Francisco Valdes et al. eds., 2002). 34. For discussions of these characteristics of critical race theory, see generally Rhonda V. Magee Andrews, The Third Reconstruction: An Alternative to Race Consciousness and Colorblindness in Post-Slavery America, 54 Ala. L. Rev. 483 (2003); Angela P. Harris, Foreword, The Jurisprudence of,reconstruction, 82 Cal. L. Rev. 741 (1994); and Mari J. Matsuda, Voices of America: Accent, Antidiscrimination Law, and a Jurisprudence for the Last Reconstruction, 100 Yale L. J (1991). 35. In his book, Interracial Justice; Eric Yamamoto proposed the following working definition of critical race lawyering or “race praxis”:

8 2108 FORDHAM LAW REVIEW [Vol. 73 theory are tested in practice. We can also use these terms to describe the array of presentations at this Symposium; the goals that animate the many educators, students, activists, and policymakers also in attendance: and the vision captured in Gerald L6pez’s eloquent keynote remarks about his own, community-based practice in New York. 6 Critical race practice is very much a work-in-progress. It encompasses foundational work in legal, political, and educational theory, as well as diverse strategies in organizing and lawyering for social change. 37 It pushes critical race theorists to keep in mind the material conditions of clients and communities; it urges practitioners to contemplate the theoretical presumptions and possibilities of their approaches to problem solving. 38 The growing literature of critical race practice focuses on the ways in which race fundamentally affects the practice, formulation, interpretation, and application of law. Its ultimate goal is to provide a series of strategies to achieve social justice through the analysis and debunking of racist myths and practices. 39 As part of the symposium panel on “Re-Trying Racial Injustices,” I devote this Essay to an exphan,ion of themes addressed in my earlier work on the reopening of civil rights era prosecutions. 4 0 I draw upon this work, as well as upon the insights of my co-panelists Anthony Alfieri and Sherrilyn Ifill, 4 ” to examine the reopening of the Emmett Race praxis combines critical pragmatic analysis with political lawyering and community organizing to practice justice by and for racialized communities. Its central idea is racial justice as antisubordination practice… Race praxis provides structure to justice practice. It means understanding justice in terms of both process (experience-rethinking-translationengagement) and norms (first principles of antisubordination and rectification of injustice). Eric K. Yamamoto, Interracial Justice: Conflict and Reconciliation in Post-Civil Rights America 129 (1999). 36. Gerald P. L6pez, Living and Lawyering Rebelliously, 73 Fordham L. Rev (2005). 37. For examples of the latter, see Vanita Gupta, Critical Race Lawyering in Tulia, Texas, 73 Fordham L. Rev (2005). 38. Eric Yamamoto refers to this dynamic as “reflective action”: infusing antiracism practice with aspects of critical inquiry and pragmatism and then recasting theory in light of practical experience. Yamamoto, supra note 35, at Few works in the field of critical race theory comprehensively bridge the divide between theory and lawyering practice. Prominent among the few are Derrick A. Bell’s pioneering casebook, Race, Racism and American Law (5th ed. 2004), originally published in 1973, and Race and Races: Cases and Resources for a Diverse America (Juan F. Perea et al. eds., 2000). 40. See Russell, supra note 32; see also Alfieri, supra note 8, at (discussing the reprosecution of criminal and civil rights actions from the 1950s and 1960s). 41. See Anthony V. Alfieri, Transcript of Remarks, Panel III: Re-Trying Racial Injustices, Critical Race Lawyering Symposium, Fordham University School of Law (Nov. 5, 2004) (on file with author); Sherrilyn Ifill, Transcript of Remarks, Panel III: Re-Trying Racial Injustices, Critical Race Lawyering Symposium, Fordham University School of Law (Nov. 5, 2004) (on file with author).

9 2005] REOPENING THE EMMETT TILL CASE 2109 Till case and its critical race practice possibilities. In an earlier essay, I posited that the successful reopening of cases provided catalytic “cleansing moments” that perhaps led to deeper truths: [Tlhe concept of reopening cases to come to terms with the past appears not anachronistic and irrelevant, but compelling and promising. Imperatives of legal accountability-combined with moral concerns of healing, truth, and reconciliation-drive us to consider whether coming to terms with America’s racial past may provide the key to a just future. 42 In this Essay, I consider other aspects of these “cleansing moments.” Are they illusory? Do they provide a misleading sense of closure at the expense of the ongoing hard work of racial justice that leads up to-and must proceed from-those moments? What lessons or “teaching moments” might these cases create for critical race lawyers in their ongoing social justice work? 43 In notable respects, the impetus to reopen long-dormant cases shares with critical legal theory a justified skepticism of the construct of finality and an idealistic vision of the possibilities for ultimate justice. Procedural and substantive bulwarks of finality may be necessary in a legalistic sense, but they do not signify closure or justice, particularly when structural inequality persists. Reopening, with its promise of restorative justice through racial healing and reconciliation, has the potential to provide the closure that mere finality lacks, but only if that restorative justice is authentic and far-reaching. This Essay proceeds to address the above concerns as follows. In Part I, I discuss the Emmett Till case in greater detail, with brief contextual reference to two historical eras that frame it chronologically and thematically: lynching in the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries, and the civil rights movement of the mid-tolate 1950s. In Part II, I focus on the significance of the 2004 Till case reopening and lessons that it may offer for critical race practice. These lessons dovetail with recurrent questions in the literature of critical race theory and offer suggestions for fostering the integration of theory and practice (race praxis). Finally, I conclude that the Till case and other similar reopenings4 will yield transcendent meaning 42. Russell, supra note 32, at This Essay is part of a larger research project concerning the reopening of dormant racial justice claims. The project examines additional legal and ethical questions beyond the scope of this Essay, including concems about: due process; use of legal resources; and the efficacy of reprosecutions versus other legal and extralegal restorative justice remedies. 44. In January 2005, a Mississippi grand jury indicted Edgar Ray Killen, a former Ku Klux Klan leader and an ordained Baptist minister, for the 1964 murders of civil rights workers James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman. Manuel Roig-Franzia, 40 Years On, Murder Charges Filed, Wash. Post, Jan. 8, 2005, at A7. The State of Mississippi had never before sought a murder prosecution in the case; in 1967, a federal civil rights conspiracy trial resulted in the convictions of seven

10 2110 FORDHAM LAW REVIEW [Vol. 73 and “closure” only if a self-reflective approach propels them past the transitory “cleansing moments” toward a deeper commitment to restorative justice. I. EMMETT TILL IN CONTEXT A. Lynching The things that influenced my. conduct as a Negro did not have to happen to me directly; I needed but to hear of them to feel their full effects in the deepest layers of my consciousness. Indeed, the white brutality that I had not seen was a more effective control of my behavior than that which I knew. 45 In order to understand the resonance of the Emmett Till case in American law and letters, it is useful to see it in the context of the history of lynching. 46 The term “lynch law” originated during the Revolutionary War to describe Colonel Charles Lynch’s use of extralegal means to deal with Tory enemies and criminal elements; since then, the definition of the term has evolved numerous times, always retaining its core connotations of social control through vigilantism, mob violence, and summary punishment. 4 7 After the Civil War, these mechanisms merged inextricably with the long-standing history of violence against slaves, resulting in a common definition of lynching as a specifically anti-black ritual of terrori48 During Reconstruction, the lynching of blacks in the South increased individuals, the acquittal of eight, and hung jury verdicts on three (including Killen). For a discussion of the Chaney/Schwerner/Goodman murders, see Russell, supra note 32, at Richard Wright, ‘Black Boy 172 (HarperCollins Perennial Classics 1993) (1945) [hereinafter Black Boy]. Lynching and other forms of racial violence figure prominently in Wright’s work. See Richard Wright, The Long Dream (1958); Richard Wright, Native Son (HarperCollins Perennial Classics 1991) (1940); Richard Wright, Between the World and Me, Partisan Rev., July-Aug. 1935, at 18 (a poem written as a first-person account by a lynching victim). 46. Histories of American lynching include: Jesse D. Ames, The Changing Character of Lynching (1942); James E. Cutler, Lynch-Law: An Investigation into the History of Lynching in the United States (1905); Ralph Ginzburg, 100 Years of Lynchings (1962); Christopher Waldrep, The Many Faces of Judge Lynch: Extralegal Violence and Punishment in America (2002); Walter White, Rope & Faggot: A Biography of Judge Lynch (1929); Robert L. Zangrando, The NAACP Crusade Against Lynching, (1980). 47. See Robert L. Zangrando, About Lynching, in The Reader’s Companion to American History (Eric Foner & John A. Garraty eds., 1991). In recent years, the term “high-tech lynching” was employed by then-u.s. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas to suggest that he was unfairly subjected to allegations of sexual harassment as an attempt to punish him for his conservative views. For a critique of this use of the term “lynching,” see Anita Hill, Speaking Truth to Power (1997) Lynchings commonly involved burning, torture, hanging, and dismemberment. Zangrando, supra note 47, at 685.

11 2005] REOPENING THE EMMETT TILL CASE 2111 dramatically as whites retaliated against blacks’ attainment of economic, social, and political power. 49 As my co-panelist Sherrilyn Ifill has written, the practice of Reconstruction and post- Reconstruction lynching functioned as an attack on black citizenship, reinforced by the U.S. Supreme Court’s narrow interpretation of Congressional authority to enact legislation to protect the constitutional rights of newly freed blacks. 50 African-American journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett, a key force behind the anti-lynching movement of the 1890s, noted that lynching linked the economic and political subordination of blacks with the reinforcement of the sexual taboo against relations between black men and white women. 5 ‘ Lynching and the threat of lynching emerged as tools of terror to maintain racial and sexual hierarchies. By the turn of the century, lynching was so prevalent that Mark Twain coined the phrase “The United States of Lyncherdom” to describe its commonality. 52 Many lynchings were never recorded or reported. Between 1882 (when reliable records were first collected) and 1968, however, an estimated 4743 persons were victims of.lynching; 3446 of these were black men and women. 5 ‘ With 539 black and 42 white victims, Mississippi had the largest recorded number, followed by Georgia (492 blacks, 39 whites), Texas (352 blacks, 141 whites), Louisiana ( Sherrilyn A. Ifill, Creating a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Lynching, 21 Law & Ineq. 263, (2003). 50. Id. at Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Lynch Law in America, The Arena, Jan. 1900, at 15-24, available at Wells- Barnett emphasized that lynching was intentional, not accidental or impulsive: Our country’s national crime is lynching. It is not the creature of an hour, the sudden outburst of uncontrolled fury, or the unspeakable brutality of an insane mob. It represents the cool, calculating deliberation of intelligent people who openly avow that there is an “unwritten law” that justifies them in putting human beings to death without complaint under oath, without trial by jury, without opportunity to make defense, and without right of appeal. Id. 52. In The United States of Lyncherdom, Twain wrote: [P]icture the scene in their minds, and soberly ponder it; then multiply it by 115, add 88; place the 203 in a row, allowing 600 feet of space for each human torch, so that there may be viewing room around it for 5,000 Christian American men, women, and children, youths and maidens; make it night, for grim effect; have the show in a gradually rising plain, and let the course of the stakes be uphill; the eye can then take in the whole line of twenty-four miles of blood and flesh bonfires unbroken… Mark Twain, The United States of Lyncherdom (1901), reprinted in The Portable Mark Twain 584, 592 (Bernard DeVoto ed., 1946). The essay was published posthumously. See L. Terry Oggel, Speaking Out About Race: “The United States of Lyncherdom” Clemens Really Wrote, 25 Prospects: An Annual of American Cultural Studies 115 (2000); see also American Lynching, Literary References & Bibliography, at (last visited Feb. 14, 2005) (website of source materials about lynching). 53. Zangrando, supra note 47, at 685.

12 2112 FORDHAM LAW REVIEW [Vol. 73 blacks, 56 whites), and Alabama (299 blacks, 48 whites). 54 Lynchings were often public events, supported by prominent community members and advertised in newspapers. Sometimes people brought their children to observe. With the advent of cameras, many lynching “parties” resulted in macabre photographs and postcards of people who posed with corpses and body parts as “souvenirs.” 55 In many instances, lynching occurred with the acquiescence and even endorsement of government actors such as elected officials, sheriffs, prosecutors, and judges. 56 The history of lynching is relevant to an understanding of the Till case in several respects. First, the supremacist fanaticism underlying lynching explains in part why Till’s few moments of interaction with a white woman in a grocery store would provoke such outrage and vicious retaliation. In the eyes of Bryant and Milam, Till’s behavior was not just rude or crude; as Milam complained, it was “poison,” a threat to their “rights.” 57 To his killers, Till, a “Chicago boy,” 58 had not learned the requisite lessons of fearfulness and submission; he represented to them exactly the kind of menace historically targeted by lynch mobs. Although the recorded nunmiber of lynchings in Mississippi and other Southern states had declined by the midtwentieth century, 59 a pervasive threat of lynching continued to operate as a form of interracial social control. As noted by Richard Wright and other artists of the early twentieth century, lynching was still deeply intertwined with the fabric of Southern life. 60 Milam and Bryant proved that lynchings still could occur as revenge for nearly any act that threatened white authority. 6 ” In the history of lynching, the brutality wrought upon Till was shocking and tragic, but hardly unique. 54. Id. 55. Id.; see also James Allen et al., Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America (2000) (collection gathered by Allen in the 1980s and the 1990s from antique shops, flea markets, and private dealers). Many of the images explicitly depict the victims’ bodies and the murderers’ (and spectators’) contentment. The collection, later the basis of a touring exhibit and related events, was a controversial pivot point in the recent resurgence of scholarly and public interest in the history of lynching. 56. Ifill, supra note 49, at Huie, supra note 4, at Id. 59. Zangrando, supra note 47, at See, e.g., David Margolick, Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Caf6 Society, and an Early Cry for Civil Rights (2000) (detailing the history of Strange Fruit, the famous anti-lynching ballad written by Abel Meeropol (a.k.a. “Lewis Allan”) and made famous by Billie Holiday). 61. As a black resident of rural Georgia recounted, describing his memory of community life in the mid-20th century: “You know there was fear,… [n]ineteenforties, -fifties, and -sixties, it was nothing for them to take a man out and beat him half to death. Or beat him to death. Or hang him. And nothing was ever said.” Melissa Fay Greene, Praying for Sheetrock 21 (1991).

13 20051 REOPENING THE EMMETT TILL CASE Second, the context of lynching history helps to explain why Till’s death, as well as his killers’ acquittal and subsequent admission, attained such looming significance in the emerging civil rights movement of the 1950s. In certain respects, Till’s murder differed from the lynchings discussed above: it was hidden and private rather than an open, public display; it occurred at the hands of Milam and Bryant (and perhaps a few others) rather than in the midst of mob violence; and it was followed by a search for the body and a trial in a court of law, both of which were closely watched by reporters from around the world. Completely consistent with earlier lynching history, however, the killers went free and gloated about their lawlessness. Legal process had made no difference save its creation of a charade, an appearance of legitimacy. This stunning arc of events reinforced the growing belief of many in the civil rights movement that law itself-and not just the flouting of law represented by lynching-was an impediment to racial justice. Finally, lynching history offers a context in which to consider the meaning and merits of reopening the Emmett Till case now, nearly fifty years later. In proposing a truth and reconciliation commission for lynching, Sherrilyn Ifill seeks to address what she terms a “largely unhealed wound in many American communities,” 6 2 one that affects the lives of perhaps thousands of blacks and whites today. Do similar objectives underlie the decision to reopen the Till case? Can the wound of the original miscarriage of justice be healed, and if so, under what circumstances? These are among the questions addressed below. B. Emmett Till ( ) The Photographs: “I want the whole world to see what they did to my boy. 63 For most Americans of a certain age (for those born around 1950), the memory of Emmett Till can be distilled into a single, searing image: the photograph of his macerated face and upper torso as he lay in his casket. For African-Americans of that same certain age, the image of his bloated, decomposed body was more than disturbing; it 62. Ifill, supra note 49, at See American Experience, The Murder of Emmett Till, Transcript [hereinafter Transcript], at (last visited Feb. 14, 2005). This now-famous remark was voiced when Mamie Till insisted that her son’s hammered-shut casket be opened and on display at his funeral. Id.; see also Hendrickson, supra note 3, at 9; Mamie Till Bradley & Ethel Payne, Mamie Bradley’s Untold Story, Chi. Defender, Apr.-June 1956, in The Lynching of Emmett Till, supra note 1, at 227.

14 2114 FORDHAM LAWREVIEW [Vol. 73 was profoundly frightening, even life-changing. 64 The fact that Jet magazine, at Mamie Till’s request, featured the photographs in its September 15, 1955 issue, was enormously significant to African- Americans. 65 Jet, along with Ebony, were the trusted national magazines “of record” for black America. They were black-owned periodicals that took the time to cover matters that mainstream (white) magazines would not: blacks’ achievements and activities in education, entertainment, politics, religion, sports, society, fashion, and the professions. 66 With their glossy, photo-filled pages, they were in some respects a shared family album for the extended family of black middle-class America. In publishing the Till photographs, Jet opened its album to show the world a painful family history. The State of Mississippi had planned to keep Emnmett’s visage hidden. When his casket arrived in Chicago for the funeral, Mamie Till noticed that its lid had been screwed down, padlocked, and marked with a state seal. 67 She insisted that it be opened so that she could examine her son’s body: I kept on up until I got to his chin and then I-I wvas forced to deal with his face. I saw that his tongue was choked out. I noticed that the right eye was lying… midway [on] his cheek, I noticed that his nose had been broken like somebody took a meat chopper and chopped his nose in several places. As I kept looking, I saw a hole, which I presumed, was a bullet hole and I could look through that 64. African-Americans from all walks bf life have described their viewing of the Till photo as a traumatic and transformative event. See, e.g., Wideman, supra note 20, at 288 (“I cannot wish away Emmett Till’s face. The horrific death mask of his erased features marks a place I ignore at my peril. The sight of a grievous wound. A wound unhealed because untended.”); see also 60 Minutes: Justice, Delayed But Not Denied (CBS television broadcast, Oct. 21, 2004) (quoting filmmaker Keith Beauchamp: “After seeing the photograph, it shocked me tremendously and my parents came in and sat me down and explained to me at that time the story of Emmett Till. And it hit me hard. It really hit me hard.”), at Another account is from Mississippi activist Margaret Block: I remember just not being able to sleep when I saw [the photos]. Can you imagine being 11 years old and seeing something like that for the first time in your life and it’s close to home? The death of Emmett Till touched us, it touched everybody. And we always said that if we ever got a chance to do something, we were going to change things around here. Jet Magazine’s Publication of Pictures of Emmett Till’s Body (National Public Radio broadcast, June 23, 2004) [hereinafter NPR Broadcast], available at See NPR Broadcast, supra note Jet, founded in 1951 by John H. Johnson of Chicago’s Johnson Publishing Company, is a small, “pocket-sized” weekly with short articles; Ebony, founded in 1945 (also by Johnson) is a larger, monthly magazine. For greater details about the historical and cultural significance of Jet and Ebony, see John H. Johnson, Succeeding Against the Odds (1989); and Roland E. Wolseley, The Black Press, USA (1990). 67. Transcript, supra note 63.

15 2005] REOPENING THE EMMETT TILL CASE 2115 hole and see daylight on the other side. And I wondered was it necessary to shoot him? 68 I I.. Mamie Till’s decision to let the world see the brutality wrought upon her son’s corpse was a radical act. Whereas white supremacists traditionally used photographs and other public displays of lynching as tools of terror, her insistence that “the whole world see” subversively used a graphic display as a tool of confrontation and resistance. 2. Life and Death: From Chicago, Illinois to Money, Mississippi Before Emmett Till’s life became a symbol of the horrors of racial hatred, it was unconnected to civil rights, white supremacy, or the South itself. Born in Chicago in 1941 to Mamie Carthan and Louis Till, Emmett Louis Till never got to know his father, an Army private who was shipped to Europe in 1943 and died two years later. 69 In the summer of 1955, Mamie Till, a Chicago civil service employee, planned to take Emmett on a summer vacation to Nebraska to visit relatives. Emmett asked if he could instead join his young cousins in Money, Mississippi. On August 20, Mamie Till put her son on a train from Chicago to Money to stay with his cousins at the home of his great uncle Moses Wright. As a going-away present, she gave Emmett his father’s old ring, which was inscribed with his initials “L.T.” 70 Testimony about exactly what happened between August 24 through August 28 (the end of Emmett’s life) is not available from trial transcripts; for unknown reasons, they no longer exist. 71 However, facts gathered through contemporaneous documents, the aforementioned documentaries, and other sources piece together the story that follows. On August 24, Emmett and a group of teenagers (seven boys and one girl) ended a day of picking cotton by going to a local convenience store in Money to buy candy, gum, and drinks. Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market was owned by Roy and Carolyn Bryant, a young white couple who lived on the premises with their two 68. Id. In The Lynching of Emmett Till, Metress reports a less-cited and even more disturbing detail about the murder; he quotes the separate recollections of two men that the hole in Till’s head came not from a bullet, but from the use of a drill bit and brace. Christopher Metress, Introduction to The Lynching of Emmett Till, supra note 1, at American Experience, The Murder of Emmett Till, Timeline: The Murder of Emmett Till, [hereinafter Timeline, ], at (last visited Feb. 14,2005). 70. Transcript, supra note American Experience, The Murder of Emmett Till, Timeline: The Murder of Emmett Till, [hereinafter Timeline, ], at (last visited Feb. 14, 2005). The best source of the original texts of contemporaneous news coverage of the Till murder, trial, and immediate post-trial aftermath is The Lynching of Emmett Till, supra note 1. Whitaker’s unpublished thesis, supra note 3, draws upon the now-lost trial transcripts. See supra note 3.

16 2116 FORDHAM LAWREVIEW [Vol. 73 small children. The grocery’s clientele consisted primarily of black sharecroppers and their families; it xwas not unusual for a group of black children to enter the store. 2 Wheeler Parker, a cousin who did not testify at trial but who is interviewed extensively in the 2002 Stanley Nelson documentary, recalled that Emmett entered the store to buy bubble gum, and that he talked to and whistled at Carolyn Bryant. Parker recounted: We all got a-scared and someone said, “She’s going to get a pistol.” That’s when we became afraid. Said, “She’s going to the car to get a pistol.” And as she went to the car, we all jumped in my uncle’s car… And, of course, Emmett Till begged us not to tell my grandfather [Moses Wright] what had took place. And we didn’t. This was on a Wednesday. And we didn’t tell him what had taken place. Ah, so Wednesday went by, Thursday went by, nothin.’ Friday. We forgot about it.73 The Nelson documentary also features an interview with Moses Wright, Emmett’s great uncle, who did testify at trial. He recalled that on Sunday, August 28, at albout 2:30 a.m., he heard a voice at the door: “And it said this is Mr. Bryant. And said they wanted the boy that did the talk at Money. And when I opened the door there was a man standing with a pistol in one hand and a flashlight in the other.”v 74 Two men then entered the house and insisted that Wright take them to Emmett. Wright begged the two men to relent, explaining that Emmett was only fourteen and was “from up north.” He said, “[w]hy not give the boy a whipping, and leave it at that?” 7 s The men forced Wright to take them to Emmett; when they found him, they woke him up and told him to put on his clothes. According to Wright, one of the men (whom he identified at trial as J.W. Milam) turned to him and asked, “[h]ow old are you, preacher?” Wright replied, “[s]ixty-four.” Milam said, “[y]ou make any trouble, you’ll never live to be sixtyfive.” Wright then recalled: “Near to the car they asked a question, ‘Is this the right one?’ And I heard a voice say, ‘Yes,’ and they drove off toward Money with him.” Transcript, supra note Id. The exact nature of what Till said or did while in the store remains unknown. Contemporaneous news accounts of Carolyn Bryant’s trial testimony quote her as saying that Till made “obscene remarks,” touched her, and whistled. See Mrs. Bryant Tells How Northern Negro Grabbed Her, “Wolf Whistled” in Store, Jackson Daily News, Sept. 23, 1955, in The Lynching of Emmett Till, supra note 1, at 93-96; Woman in Lynching Case Weaves Fantastic Story, Wash. Afro-Am., Sept. 24, 1955, in The Lynching of Emmett Till, supra note 1, at However, even the most famous detail-that he allegedly “wolf-whistled” at Carolyn Bryant-has long been in dispute. Some sources posit that Till may have been making a whistling sound to bring his stuttering under control. See, e.g., Rick Bragg, Emmett Till’s Long Shadow, N.Y. Times, Dec. 1, 2002, 4, at Transcript, supra note Id. 76. Id.; see also Ralph Hutto, Slain Boy’s Uncle Identifies Bryant, Milam on Stand,

17 2005] REOPENING THE EMMETT TILL CASE 2117 Nelson’s documentary features interviews with several others with recollections of what happened later in,the day on August 28. One witness remembered seeing Milam in his truck and hearing someone yelling inside; another heard beating and crying coming from a barn and saw Milam emerge; a third saw an employee of Milam’s washing blood out of Milam’s truck. The third witness related: “I said, ‘What all that blood come from?’ He laughed. The boy laughed. That’s what he did. He said, ‘There a shoe here. There’s one of his shoes here.’ I said ‘Who!?’ That’s the way I said it. I say ‘Who?’ ‘Emmett Till’s shoe.””‘ That same day, Mamie Till learned of her son’s kidnapping from her family in Mississippi. The family contacted the authorities, who began to search for Emmett near riverbanks and bridges-“where black folks always look when something like this happens,” said Moses Wright.7 8 On August 29, Milam and Bryant were arrested and charged with the kidnapping in Greenwood,.Mississippi. On August 31, a boy fishing in the Tallahatchie River found a decomposed body caught on a twisted root; it was weighted down with a cotton gin fan and badly disfigured. Moses Wright identified the corpse as Emmett Till based on the initials “L.T.” on the boy’s ring. 79 On September 2, Emmett Till’s casket arrived in Chicago to be received by his mother, who insisted that it be opened ahd displayed at the September 3 funeral. The public funeral drew worldwide attention and thousands of mourners. Emmett Till was buried on September 6, at the end of the summer of his fourteenth year Trial and Acquittal: “[1]t was almost like a 4th of July celebration.” 8 1 On the day of Emmett Till’s burial, a Mississippi grand jury indicted Milam and Bryant for his kidnapping and murder. 82 The two men admitted they had taken Till but insisted that they had let him go. 83 By the time that the trial began in the small town of Sumner on September 19, more than seventy reporters and thirty photographers were in attendance. Journalist David Halberstam noted that “[t]he murder of Emmett Till and the trial of the two men accused of murdering him became the first great media event of the civil rights Jackson St. Times, Sept. 21, 1955, in The Lynching of Emmett Till, supra note 1, at 71-75; Sam Johnson, Uncle of Till’s Identifies Pair of Men Who Abducted Chicago Negro, Greenwood Commonwealth (Miss.), Sept. 21, 1955, in The Lynching of Emmett Till, supra note 1, at Transcript, supra note Id. 79. Id. 80. Timeline, , supra note Transcript, supra note 63 (remark of Mamie Till). 82. Timeline, , supra note Transcript, supra note 63.

18 2118 FORDHAM LAWREVIEW [Vol. 73 movement.” 8 4 Milam and Bryant enjoyed broad local support; every lawyer in the county offered support to their defense team, and local stores raised ten thousand dollars for their legal fees. 85 Contemporaneous accounts describe the courtroom as humid, crowded, and rigidly segregated. All blacks involved in the trial and trial coverage (Mamie Till, journalists, counsel, and a U.S. Congressman) sat at a small card table to the side of the courtroom; every morning, the local sheriff greeted the table by saying, “[g]ood morning, niggers!”i 8 The jury consisted of twelve white men. 87 Outside of the jury’s presence, Carolyn Bryant testified that Emmett Till had entered the store, bought two cents’ worth of bubble gum, made “obscene remarks” to her, and whistled at her. 88 Milam and Bryant did not take the stand. 89 Remarkably, given the intimidating courtroom atmosphere, several blacks testified, including:. Mamie Till; Moses Wright; a teenager named Willie Reed; and Reed’s grandfather Ed (Add) Reed. 90 Mamie Till testified that the corpse that she had exaniined was her son; on cross-examination, the defense attorneys suggested that she and the NAACP were lying as part of a northern conspiracy. 9 ‘ In the Nelson documentary, Mamie Till recalled: They summed up by saying, “Isn’t it true that you and the NAACP got your heads together and you came down here and with their help, you all dug up a body and you have claimed that body to be your son? Isn’t it true that your son is in Detroit, Michigan with his grandfather right now?” The Lynching of Emmett Till, supra note 1, at Transcript, supra note Id. Other examples, abound of the open hostility of the community. In contemporaneous news coverage, one “man on the street” interviewee expressed scorn of Mamie Till: “I can’t understand how a civilized mother could put a dead body of her child on public display.” Another person suspected a “communistic front.” Still another joked: “Isn’t that just like a nigger to swim across the Tallahatchie with a gin fan around his neck?” Id. 87. Id. 88. Mrs. Bryant Tells How Northern Negro Grabbed Her, “Wolf Whistled” in Store, Jackson Daily News, Sept. 23, 1955, in The Lynching of Emmett Till, supra note 1, at 93-96; Woman in Lynching Case Weaves Fantastic Story, Wash. Afro-Am., Sept. 24, 1955, in The Lynching of Emmett Till, supra note 1, at See id. (neglecting to mention testimony from the defendants); Transcript, supra note 63 (same). 90. Transcript, supra note 63. Ed (Add) Reed’s testimony is discussed in materials available online. See The Emmett Till Murder, at (last visited Feb. 14, 2005). There is no extant trial transcript; the only copies have vanished, their whereabouts unknown since the early 1960s. The source of the most accurate account of the trial proceedings is probably the unpublished 1963 master’s thesis. of Hugh’ Stephen Whitaker, supra note 3. Whitaker had access to the transcript and quotes directly from it. He also interviewed many key participants. Id. 91. Transcript, supra note Id.

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