“Twas down in Mississippi no so long ago,
When a young boy from Chicago town stepped through a Southern door.
This boy’s dreadful tragedy I can still remember well,
The color of his skin was black and his name was Emmett Till.
Some men they dragged him to a barn and there they beat him up.
They said they had a reason, but I can’t remember what.
They tortured him and did some things too evil to repeat.
There was screaming sounds inside the barn, there was laughing sounds out on the street.
Then they rolled his body down a gulf amidst a bloody red rain
And they threw him in the waters wide to cease his screaming pain.
The reason that they killed him there, and I’m sure it ain’t no lie,
Was just for the fun of killin’ him and to slowly watch him die.
And then to stop the United States of yelling for a trial,
Two brothers they confessed that they had killed poor Emmett Till.
But on the jury there were men who helped the brothers commit this awful crime,
And so this trial was a mockery, but nobody seemed to mind.
I saw the morning papers but I could not bear to see
The smiling brothers walkin’ down the courthouse stairs.
For the jury found them innocent and the brothers they went free,
While Emmett’s body floats the foam of a Jim Crow southern sea.
If you can’t speak out against this kind of thing, a crime that’s so unjust,
Your eyes are filled with dead men’s dirt, your mind is filled with dust.
Your arms and legs they must be in shackles and chains, and your blood it must refuse to flow,
For you let this human race fall down so God-awful low!
This song is just a reminder to remind your fellow man
That this kind of thing still lives today in that ghost-robed Ku Klux Klan.
But if all us folks that thinks alike, if we gave all we could give,
We could make this great land of ours a greater place to live.
America must never forget the lynching of Emmett Till. Three days after the Milam-Bryant clan tortured Emmett to death and rolled him into the Tallahatchie River, his bloated corpse rose to confront our nation’s broken moral compass. His mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, examined his gouged-out eye, clipped ear, shattered skull, and insisted on an open-casket funeral to “let the people see what they did to my boy.”
“Lord, take my soul,” she pleaded beside his casket, “show me what you want me to do and make me able to do it.”
Mrs. Till-Mobley then did something all but unimaginable at the time — she and her allies leveraged the power of black Chicago’s community institutions to organize a multicolored coalition that helped win the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, create a new black sense of self and set ablaze a compelling vision of democratic possibility. Her boy’s name still echoes in our streets where those who protest police violence against African Americans chant: “Tamir Rice, Emmett Till/How many black kids will you kill?”
Justice for Emmett Till in the narrow sense seems unlikely. The best way to win justice for him now is to join the struggle that his mother prayed would give this horror meaning. “Lord, take my soul,” she pleaded beside his casket, “show me what you want me to do and make me able to do it.”
source: Timothy Tyson/DETROIT FREE PRESS
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