In 1955 14-year-old Emmett Louis “Bobo” Till was lynched for whistling at Carolyn Bryant, a 21-year-old white woman, in Money, MS.
Since Clenora Hudson’s 1988 Ford Foundation University of Iowa doctoral dissertation, “Emmett Till: The Impetus of the Modern Civil Rights Movement,” and its 1994 publication, many Till books have been written. A recent book contends that the author has finally found the key to Till’s fate—Bryant’s testimony, which she is now recanting.
Many are outraged with her statement that the whole thing was a lie, concluding that Till would never have been murdered had she not made her accusations. Truth is, it was the whistle, not the testimony that instigated the lynching. Hudson’s research in 1988 confirmed that he indeed whistled at Bryant.
Till’s mother Mamie claimed that it was his way of getting a word out, since he stuttered. The men playing checkers on the porch heard it. Bryant did as well, and she chased Emmett and Simeon, his 12-year-old cousin, out of the store. His 16-year-old cousins Wheeler Parker and Maurice Wright heard the whistle and witnessed Bryant’s response in her racist threats, while firing her pistol.
Still, although Till did whistle, that did not give them the right to kill him. Bryant’s exaggeration came only after the lynching, in an attempt to mar Till’s character. Relative to his fate, her “breaking silence” today has no more significance now than did her testimony in 1955.
Finally, Till’s father, Louis Till, is very important as he is a seminal part of the family equation, too often ignored, thereby leaving the family both vulnerable and unprotected. He was the 23-year-old soldier in the Army, stationed in Italy 10 years before Emmett’s death. He was executed for allegedly raping two white women and killing another, an allegation never proven: “It was rumored that many Black soldiers were accused and killed for such activities, as a scare tactic for discouraging interracial dating,” (Hudson, “Emmett Till,” p. 37).
Because of the father’s alleged history, the murderers were acquitted. As quoted in Hudson’s dissertation, from “University Students Rap Till Verdict,” “the verdict rendered by the jury will be remembered as one of the most notorious miscarriages of justice ever handed.” (Chicago Defender, October 22, 1955, p. 55)
Hudson’s activities—from unearthing Emmett, dormant for 33 years, to challenging the Academy, to rigorous research, to writing the film script, “Liberating Emmett”—were intended to “liberate” us all. The work has been dedicated to the whole truth with Emmett’s legacy as catalyst. As all our lives are interconnected, it becomes clear that we must come together to work for a better world for all humanity.
To read Dr. Clenora Hudson-Weems’, “Emmett’s Murder Remains the Centerpiece of the Ugly American Tragedy: All Facts Recorded in Hudson’s ‘88 Doctoral Dissertation” visit the Chicago Crusader Newspaper website at www.chicagocrusader.com.