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What does the murder of Emmet Till and the subsequent trial of his murderers tell us about American society in the 1950's

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Introduction

What does the murder of Emmet Till and the subsequent trial of his murderers tell us about American society in the 1950's The murder of Emmet Till happened on Saturday 27th August 1955. Emmet Till was born in Chicago on July 25th 1941; this means that he was 14 years old. Emmet Till was sent by his mother to visit relatives in Mississippi, in the south of America. At this time there was racial prejudice in the North, but mostly black and white people were treated equally. The South of America was completely different. In the south the "Jim Crow" laws were in place. These laws made it legal for black people to be completely separated from the white people. Black people were not allowed to sit on the same benches, or eat in the same restaurants as white people. As Emmet Till was brought up in the less racist north, he was not accustomed to the separation in the South. He did not answer white shop keepers with the expected "yes sir, no sir" he talked to them as he did when he was at home, not with the respect that was normal in the south. Emmet Till was hanging around with the local black boys and was dared to go into the local convenience store to ask the white girl behind the counter, Carolyn Bryant for a date. ...read more.

Middle

When slavery was stopped in America after the civil war many white southerners were resentful towards the now free blacks. Although it was illegal the white southerners set out to make sure that the black people had a lower social standing to the white people. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) used violence to maintain white supremacy in the south. The KKK randomly attacked black people to make sure there was always an element of fear in their lives. I think that the way in which this murder was carried out and the following verdict of not guilty, shows that in the south of America racism was still happening. This shows that although the law changed the people's attitudes did not; there was still a feeling of white supremacy in the southern states. I also think that the way Emmett Till was used to acting in the North and the way most southerners acted shows that there was a great divide of people's attitudes in America. The North had always campaigned for slavery to be abolished, while the confederates (the south) wanted to keep slaves. I think that this murder shows how the North and the South's attitudes did not change even though the North won the civil war. What are the similarities and differences between the case of Emmet Till and the more recent murder of James Byrd in 1998? ...read more.

Conclusion

Byrd's Murderers had links to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). I know this, as Bill King owned a lighter that had a triangle symbol on it, this symbol was later recognised as a symbol of the KKK. Both murders were committed while the victim was outnumbered. Till was murdered by two people and Byrd was murdered by three. This could be important as this means the murder could not be an accident and it would not have been a fight. Because the victim was outnumbered both these murders could be described as lynching. Also both of the victims were horrifically tortured and beaten. There were also some differences between these crimes. The differences are not in the actual murders or the motives for the murders, but the subsequent trial of the murderers. Till's murderers were tried together at the same time in the same court. Byrd's murderers were tried separately at different times and they had different lawyers. The jurymen for Till's murder were all white males, there was nine farmers, two carpenters and an insurance salesman. Whereas the trials of Byrd's murderers all included black men and women, which would make the jury seem more fair to the victim. There were different verdicts, Bill King, Shawn Berry and Lawrence Russell were all given the death sentence and are awaiting the punishment. Bryant and Milam walked away as free men even though there was lots of evidence to suggest they committed the murder and they later admitted to the crime. ...read more.

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