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Media Coverage Of The Emmitt Till Murder Played A Major Role In The Civil Rights Movement

1534 words - 7 pages

On August 28, 1955, fourteen year old Emmett Till was beaten, tortured and shot. Then with barbed wire wrapped around his neck and tied to a large fan, his body was discarded into the Tallahatchi River. What was young Emmett’s offense that brought on this heinous reaction of two grown white men? When he went into a store to buy some bubblegum he allegedly whistled at a white female store clerk, who happened to be the store owner’s wife. That is the story of the end of Emmett Till’s life. Lynchings, beatings and cross-burning had been happening in the United States for years. But it was not until this young boy suffered an appalling murder in Mississippi that the eyes of a nation were ...view middle of the document...

Because there is no way that I could tell this story and give them the visual picture of what my son looked like” (The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till). As quoted in the same documentary, Rev. Al Sharpton recalls this poignant moment in Civil Rights history and what it meant to black people in America at the time. Sharpton summarizes her decision, “She found the strength to say, ‘I’ll bear my pain to save some other mother from having to go through this’. And because she put the picture of this young man’s body on the conscious of America she might have saved thousands of young black men and women’s lives.” The Reverend goes on to say that through the media coverage of the funeral, “She was able to graphically bring home what a thousand speeches could not” therefore forcing America face it’s problem of racism.
News of Emmett Till’s murder reached media sources across the country and over the ocean. PBS’s history series The American Experience, provides a timeline of how his story spread like wildfire to newspapers around the world. PBS lists several publications which addressed the murder causing universal public outrage at how something like this could happen to anyone, especially a child. The list includes that on September 2nd, the same day in which Mrs. Till received her son’s body in Chicago, The Jackson Daily in Mississippi published an article on the Till case. In it they refer to the murder as a “brutal, senseless crime,” however in the same story they complain that the NAACP was placing too much attention on the incident by referring to it as a “lynching”. That same day a Belgium newspaper, Le Drapeau Rouge also published an article which was titled "Racism in the USA: A young black is lynched in Mississippi”. The following week Jet Magazine, a national publication, and The Chicago Defender both publish grisly photographs of Till’s mutilated and bloated corpse. Consequently, multiple papers in both Belgium and France were also following the story. On September 28th , the German newspaper Freies Volk publishes their article entitled, "The Life of a Negro Isn't Worth a Whistle."
At the time of the murder trial in September 1955, many television and newspaper reporters convened outside the courthouse on a daily basis. News reporter Dan Wakefield worked for The Nation which is a weekly news magazine. Regarding mass media coverage of the trial in Mississippi, he explained that the locals did not understand why the media was making such a big deal about the case. According to Mr. Wakefield the locals were well aware that the two men accused, J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, had committed the murder yet no one wanted them to be charged (The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till). In spite of the eye witnesses to them coming in the house and taking a sleeping Emmett out his bed, and being spotted at the barn where the beating and torture took place, the two white men were acquitted of the murder and subsequent kidnapping charges by an...

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