30 June 2014
The Past is the Present
In August 1955, Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old African-American boy left Chicago to visit his relatives in Mississippi. A couple days after he arrived, he and his cousin Curtis Jones went to the Bryant's grocery store to buy some candy. A white man named Roy Bryant who was out of town owned the store and his wife, Carolyn, was managing the shop in his absence. The exact details of the incident have long been disputed, but Till somehow offended Mrs. Bryant. When Roy Bryant returned, he and his half-brother, J. W. Milam, planned to get a cruel vengeance on the boy for offending his wife. “They came to Emmett's uncle’s cabin and took Emmett with a pistol and a flashlight. Three days later Till's body was found in the Tallahatchie River, one eye missing, nose broken, hole in the side of his head, and tied to a seventy-five pound cotton gin fan with barbed wire. The men were tried for murder, but were acquitted by an all-white jury. The killers walked away with no punishment” (Pepus 5). Maime Till displayed her son in an open casket funeral because she wanted the world to see what they did to her son. This strategy allowed multiple people to see the horrors of racism and how innocent life is destroyed. This became a new inspiration for the civil rights movement and the importance of standing for justice.
Joel Sternfeld, one of the most prestige international photographer, captured a photo of The former Bryant’s Grocery in Money, Mississippi. This image might give off the perception of a common site but it is actually where the extraordinary event occurred. This old brick building doesn’t seem to have much significance but the events that swirled around the building in August 1955 exhilarated the modern civil rights movement and gave Rosa Parks the courage to begin the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. Months after the Till’s death Rosa Parks decided that she was going to sit in the white people section on the bus, but during this time blacks had to give up their seats to whites when more whites got on the bus. So when more white people got on the bus Parks was asked to give up her seat, she refused so the bus driver had her arrested. (Sanders 4) Rosa Parks Told Mamie Till that the photograph of Emmett’s disfigured face in the casket was set in her mind when she stood her ground and refused to give up her seat. The photo of the Grocery store represents a pivotal moment in civil rights movement that will never be forgotten, it signifies unequal justice, child abuse and racial violence. By presenting this photo, Sterfeld’s idea is to question society. A great deal has changed since the murdering of Emmett Till but the sort of racism that led to his death still exists in society today. In February 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African-American high school student, walked into a 7-Eleven near a gated community in Sanford, Florida, to buy Skittles and an iced tea. He was later shot to death by a mixed-race man, who claimed Martin had behaved suspiciously.(Anderson 5) “Gorge Zimmerman, the suspected killer, admitted shooting Martin with his 9-milimieter pistol and said he “acted in self-defense,” even though the teen was unarmed and Zimmerman has not been arrested. The justice Department has been investigating the case, but Zimmerman is still walking free” (Anderson 9). Trayvon Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, want this son to be remember as this century’s Emmett Till.(Gralla). The murder of Emmett Till was the first media event of the Civil Rights Movement. It demonstrated the horrors of racism that circulated throughout America and around the world. Prejudice still exists in the world today and the list of names of people who have lost their lives for simply being of a different color or faith continues to grow. Let us commit as a nation to putting an end to this growing list, and reawaken the nation’s lagging civil rights movement once...
Cited: Anderson, Elijah. "Emmett And Trayvon." Washington Monthly 45.1/2 (2013): 31-33. Academic Search Premier. Web. 30 June 2014.
Gralla, Joan. "Trayvon Martin 's Father Wants Son 's Death to Renew Civil Rights Movement - Newsday." Newsday. N.p., 23 Apr. 2014. Web. 29 June 2014.
Pepus, Chris. "Telling Emmett Till 's Story." Progressive 69.12 (2005): 36-37. Academic Search Premier. Web. 30 June 2014.
Sanders, Viv. "Rosa Parks & The Montgomery Bus Boycott." History Review 55 (2006): 3-8. Academic Search Premier. Web. 30 June 2014.
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