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The Murder of Emmett Till
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Do You Remember?
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In Till's Shadow
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Online Forum

  Questions and Answers:   Day 1 |  Day 2 |  Day 3 |  Day 4
  Ask a Question | Read about the participants

Day 2:
January 22, 2003

Q: In the "confession" from Look Magazine, it seems to be presented as factual that Emmett Till did more than just whistle at the woman and was defiant to his killers. Is there any evidence that supports the parts of the confession that seem just to be self-serving "justifications" by the killers of their horrendous act?

Robert Nance
Chico, California

Answered by Moses Newson:
Although William Bradford Huie's Look Magazine story was considered to have provided significant otherwise unavailable information about the Emmett Till murder, there is no reason to believe it was an entirely accurate story. It is known that the story Carolyn Bryant testified to during the trial was at odds with accounts by other witnesses. She sat in with her husband and J.W. Milam for the Huie article interview. At any rate, the murder was not in self-defense or accidental -- and in no way justified.

Moses Newson

Answered by Stanley Nelson:
The eyewitness's that day (Wheeler Parker is in the film) said that Emmett only whistled. The killers would of course have their own reasons to attempt to "justify" the killing. I feel that the details of their story should be taken with a grain of salt.

Stanley Nelson

Q: One of the quotes I just read led me to think that news of Emmett Till's killing was reported in the Black papers. Was it reported in the Chicago Tribune -- and if so, to what extent?

Karen Hollweg
Boulder, Colorado

Answered by Moses Newson:
This was a major news story carried by all the nation's influential newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, as well as by many in foreign countries. Judging "extent" can be somewhat subjective but with the Chicago mayor and other leaders protesting the barbaric murder of a Chicago youth, the Tribune devoted considerable space to the story.

Moses Newson

Q: Do you think that in the country's present conservative environment, it is difficult for young people and those not intimately affected by the violence of that era to appreciate the call for "hate crime" legislation ?

Exton, PA

Answered by Robin D.G. Kelley:
It's hard to guess how people will respond to anything given the diversity of experiences and the different ways people respond. Despite nearly a century of lynchings from the 1880s to the 1950s, the federal government never passed anti-lynching legislation, nor was there much of an outcry for it beyond the African American community and certain liberal whites. So, even when violence was pervasive, it seems as though most Americans were still not "affected" by the violence enough to move to action. Nevertheless, the only way to build support for such legislation is to educate people of past and present violence, and the impact it has on our culture more broadly. Remember that James Byrd was lynched by three white men in Jasper Texas a little over four years ago. Unlike the past, however, the men were prosecuted and people in Jasper have moved to memorialize his murder and some in the state have supported legislation against such "hate crimes."

Robin D.G. Kelley

Q: Wasn't President Eisenhower, as a general, the man that helped integrate the military during World War II? Why didn't he do anything? Votes?

David W. Steger
New Smyrna Beach, Florida

Answered by Robin D.G. Kelley:
The armed forces were not integrated until after World War II, under President Truman. At one point in 1952, while Eisenhower was running for president, a couple of articles portrayed him as a key supporter of the integration of the armed forces and, despite his advisors suggesting that this might win black votes, he nevertheless denied it. He was not a big supporter.

Why he didn't do anything about Till may not have any bearing on his position vis-a-vis the armed forces. Like the presidents before him, he was against any sort of intervention into Southern affairs, even if laws were violated. He certainly wasn't crazy about Brown v. Board of Education. Nevertheless, when efforts to integrate Central High School in Little Rock erupted in violence, he was willing to send troops to keep the peace.

Robin D.G. Kelley

Q: I would like to know, did the men that did this horrible crime, did they suffer later? Is there any history of their lives or what their lives were like afterwards? How did they die?

Delores Montgomery
Gulfport, Mississippi

Answered by Stanley Nelson:
The two men who admitted to the killing both died of natural causes, they were never punished for their crime.

Stanley Nelson

Q: My question is has anyone been in contact with the kids of Milam and Bryant and their wives about where they live and if they have anything to say about the case? I would love to hear the answer to this.


Portland, Oregon

Answered by Stanley Nelson:
Milam and Bryant were both divorced and their wives were remarried -- we spent a lot of time trying to find and contact them or their children but were unable to do so.

Stanley Nelson

Q: Was there ever any form of apology for the Emmett Till murder and trial given to the Till family by any person holding Mississippi political authority?

Jonathan Carr
Charlotte, North Carolina

Answered by Stanley Nelson:
I believe Mamie Till Mobley received an official apology from the State of Mississippi a few years ago.

Stanley Nelson

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