ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Remember, these kids did not think of racism as some kind

of imaginary  bogey man. They had seen the fear in the eyes of their

own fathers and  grandfathers. Robert Johnson, the blues singer,

called white racism a hell hound bent on tearing a black man

to pieces. They-themselves-knew what segregation meant.


Books on Emmett Till Murder


Death of Innocence A Death in the Delta  The Lynching of Emmett Till / Getting Away with Murder


Film on  Emmett Till Murder


The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till  /   The Murder of Emmett Till


*   *   *   *   *


A Response to Look Magazine’s

“The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi”By William Bradford Huie


The Confessions of the Murderers of Emmett Till

By Amin Sharif


I read the “Confessions” of the killers of Till. It is a chilling account of how peckerwoods in the South think and act. There is one puzzling aspect of the “ Confessions” that I can’t fathom. Why would any young person raised in the south urge a (relative?) young boy on to certain danger by daring him to try and court a white woman. This doesn’t ring true.

Bobo’s mother tried to instill in him how dangerous the South was. It is quite possible that Bo would test the dangerous waters of the Southland being from up North. But would a group of young blacks, primarily black boys, raised under the pall of white hot racism do such a thing? Remember, these kids did not think of racism as some kind of imaginary bogey man. They had seen the fear in the eyes of their own fathers and grandfathers. Robert Johnson, the blues singer, called white racism a hell hound bent on tearing a black man to pieces. They-themselves-knew what segregation meant.

 There are several other aspects of the “ Confessions” that I also find troubling. The idea that Till was not afraid contradicts the earlier statement that he “wanted to go home.” The whole idea that they were out to frighten Bo doesn’t make sense. When they entered his room in darkness, Bo had to be frightened. He would have undoubtedly known that something was up when his killers did not “whip” him on the spot. He had most likely been infected by the fear of those around him.

And why was Bo still there anyway? The “ Confessions” says that Bo had been convinced by his grandmother to stay–that the threat was overblown. But who is more fearful of a white lynch mob. . . a black woman or a black man? I believe it is the black woman. She find herself deprived of the limited protection that the black man offers if he is lynched. He is the buffer between herself and white hot racism. It is the black woman who feeds fear to black children with her breast milk. It is she who always cautions the black man against acting against the white man. Of course, she has cause!

It is the black woman who must bury the black man when his courage leads him to confront the white man. She lives stigmatized by the black man’s action, her children, especially the males are also stigmatized as sons of a “no good” nigger. She lives everyday thinking that the “sins of the father” will be visited upon the sons. After all, the memory of the slave master is long. Just a few thoughts. sharif   

*   *   *   *   *

A Response to Sharif on the Look Confession

Brother Sharif, peace and blessings,

I quite agree with your perspective on the Look exposition of the “Confessions of the Murderers of Emmett Till.” What troubles me is not the twists and the lies of Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam and the apology for the murder of Emmett Till, but rather Look‘s editorial justification for its payment of $4,000 to these two low-life murderers. They begin their re-creation of the murderer’s perspective by claiming that they are presenting the “real story”—the “true account”—of the killing of Emmett Till. But they do not know the truth; they know only the “truth” of the murderers in that Look and its editors were not eye-witnesses to the events that they assist the murderers to construct..

They become participants in the reconstruction of the murderers’ lies and justifications. Thus it is clear to me that the Look story is another form of white persecution of the fourteen-year-old Emmett Till, that these Look editors by a literary means continue to persecute and justify their persecution of this fourteen-year old boy, and worse, in the most shameless manner. If they wanted to present the story of the murderers in an objective manner they could have done so plainly and in a more efficient manner by a simple question-and-answer process, rather than by this dressed-up literary essay.

All we need do is to look at the face of the murdered Emmett Till to demonstrate that all of the things that these murderers claim Emmett did before they put a bullet in his head is an outrageous lie. But surely if we look at the “Letters to the Editor” that this literary essay had its desired effect—that is, to put a bit of salve on white America’s racial guilt.

But let us present these “Confessions” to others and see what is their reaction and what they think about the culpability of Look magazine. 

As ever and always, Rudy

*   *   *   *   *

The Emmett Till Story

The story begins when handsome, 14-year-old, Emmett Till of Chicago (born July 25, 1941), who when younger had been a victim of polio, but who now as a strapping lad whose only souvenir of his bout with polio was the sometimes habit of stuttering, was granted permission to visit his uncle Mose Wright, 64-year-old cotton farmer in the small (350 population) magnolia state cotton center of money Mississippi.

The visiting youth’s vacation moved along nicely until August 28, 1955, the fifth day of his visit.

In the company of several other youths, Emmett visited Bryant’s Grocery in Money and started a chain of events that was later to focus the eyes of the nation and the world upon Mississippi.

Following the discovery of the body the scene shifted to Chicago, Illinois, where for three days some 50,000 persons viewed the youth’s mutilated body. At the funeral services the youth’s mother, Mrs. Mamie Bradley cried, “I hope my son didn’t die in vain.”

See also:  and

*   *   *   *   *


The Face of Emmett Till (Updated)  by Big Tex—So I lived in southern Mississippi. Emmett Till, this 14-year old black boy, who’d gone to Tallahatchie County, Money, Mississippi in the Delta, to visit his great uncle for summer holiday, from Chicago, was lynched. And as a child of 12, I can not remember having felt more vulnerable, more frightened, more—but at the same time more angry. And I can remember my 12-year old anger very, very much.And when I met people like Judy and SNCC in 1962, ’63, all of us remembered the photograph of Emmett Till’s face, lying in the coffin, on the cover of Jet Magazine. […] And when I met Mrs. Mamie Bradley, Emmett Till’s mother, many years later, I asked her, “Why did you not have the undertaker do some cosmetic work on his face?” And her response was that, “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby.”— Joyce Ladner  Confessions of the Killers of Emmett Till

You know, I remember in interviewing people in the course of doing [Eyes on the Prize] that it was not only young black people who spoke about Till, but young white people as well, who had the idea that this is someone our age, you know, a pre-teen really, or young teen, and if you can see that happening to a young black child down in Mississippi, it’s not only black kids who say, ‘Well, it’s not that I can’t be the teacher or nurse, but if they kill people, this is serious,” and that young white people also said, “If they’re killing people, it’s not just a matter of some folks don’t like colored people, this is horrible, and this can’t be allowed to go on. I’ve got to do something about this.”—Juan Williams


 *   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan

*   *   *   *   *




The Death of Emmett Till

                                     By Bob Dylan 


‘Twas down in Mississippi not so long ago, When a young boy from Chicago town walked through a Southern door. This boy’s fateful tragedy you should all 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 disremember 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 blood-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, He was a Black skin boy so he was born to 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 still 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 cease 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.

 *   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan

*   *   *   *   *



Emmett Till’S Glass-Top Casket

                              By Cornelius Eady 

        By the time they cracked me open again, topside, abandoned in a toolshed, I had become another kind of nest. Not many people connect possums with Chicago,

        but this is where the city ends, after all, and I float still, after the footfalls fade and the roots bloom around us. The fact was, everything that

        worked for my young man

        worked for my new tenants. The fact was, he had been gone for years. They lifted him from my embrace, and I was empty, ready. That’s how the possums found me, friend,

        dry-docked, a tattered mercy hull. Once I held a boy who didn’t look like a boy. When they finally remembered, they peeked through my clear top. Then their wild surprise.

April 5, 2010

Source: NewYorker

*   *   *   *   *


The Emmett Till Blues

                   By Al Young

What they use to just do and just done it to me,

they doing it directly to all yall now, doing it

and doing it and doing it to the world.

Shoot and cut and smash my head in,

take me to the river, sink me down –

you call that religion? Yeah, yeah!

It hadn’t of been for my mother bring

my busted body back up to Chicago and let

Jet get pictures for the world to look at,

nobody would of known. I’m long time gone.

Nowadays wouldn’t be no way I’d get to say

this on television, no way yall would even see

a picture of me. Do yall even know who this is

talking to you? This is Emmett Till. I died

and died and died. Soon as yall figured

America was saved, here come Guantánamo

and Abu Ghraib. Here come greed and

here come grief. The Thief of Baghdad

make they own commandments. Geronimo,

wouldn’t of paid them no mind. What you think

they might pull next? Talk to me. I been done died.

*   *   *   *   *

Bill Moyers Interviews Douglass A. Blackmon

Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II (2008)

*   *   *   *   *

Emmett Till and Dr Kings Memorial.—by Eddie Glaude, Jr..—Emmett Till was murdered on August 28, 1955. They found his body horribly mangled at the bottom of the Tallahatchie River with a cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire. Till had dared to break one of the sacred rules of the Jim Crow South. He “flirted” with a white woman. He was only fourteen years old.

Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, decided to have an open-casket funeral. She wanted everyone to see what they had done to “her baby.” The Chicago Defender reported that over “250,000 people viewed and passed by the bier of little Emmett Till . . . All were shocked, some horrified and appalled. Many prayed, scores fainted and practically all, men, women and children wept.”

On September 15th, 1955 Jet Magazine published, unedited, the images of Emmett Till. Black America was stunned. For some, this was the first visual image of the brutality of American racism. For others, the dead body of Till only confirmed the disease at the heart of the United States. America was sick. And Emmett Till was to become the sacrificial lamb, which sparked the modern Civil Rights Movement that sought to heal the nation.

What did Mamie Till Mobley want us to see when she decided to leave open her baby’s coffin? What was she memorializing at that moment? Obviously, her decision called attention to the brutality of American racism. But I am convinced that she wanted to make visible all of those victims of American hatred who remained invisible. The nameless black bodies that lined the bottom of the Tallahatchie River and the spirits that were defeated daily by the systemic and dehumanizing experience of white supremacy were all captured in the brutally disfigured face of a murdered fourteen-year old boy. Perhaps she wanted that image to haunt the nation — to force us to remember those who reside in the shadows. Those images defined a generation. And they, at least for me, continue to haunt.

On the exact same day, eight years later, an estimated 250,000 people engaged in an historic demonstration before the Lincoln Memorial for civil rights and economic justice. And it was here that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. In some ways, that speech stands as a third “founding” of the nation. Just as President Lincoln’s second inaugural offered a revision of the revolutionary beginnings of America, Dr. King’s words expanded the very idea of American democracy in which the promises of freedom and justice would be extended to its entire people..—HuffingtonPost

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.”

We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

*   *   *   *   *


The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788

By Pauline Maier

A notable historian of the early republic, Maier devoted a decade to studying the immense documentation of the ratification of the Constitution. Scholars might approach her book’s footnotes first, but history fans who delve into her narrative will meet delegates to the state conventions whom most history books, absorbed with the Founders, have relegated to obscurity. Yet, prominent in their local counties and towns, they influenced a convention’s decision to accept or reject the Constitution. Their biographies and democratic credentials emerge in Maier’s accounts of their elections to a convention, the political attitudes they carried to the conclave, and their declamations from the floor. The latter expressed opponents’ objections to provisions of the Constitution, some of which seem anachronistic (election regulation raised hackles) and some of which are thoroughly contemporary (the power to tax individuals directly).

Ripostes from proponents, the Federalists, animate the great detail Maier provides, as does her recounting how one state convention’s verdict affected another’s. Displaying the grudging grassroots blessing the Constitution originally received, Maier eruditely yet accessibly revives a neglected but critical passage in American history.—Booklist

*   *   *   *   *

A Wreath for Emmett Till

By Marilyn Nelson; Illustrated by Philippe Lardy

This memorial to the lynched teen is in the Homeric tradition of poet-as-historian. It is a heroic crown of sonnets in Petrarchan rhyme scheme and, as such, is quite formal not only in form but in language. There are 15 poems in the cycle, the last line of one being the first line of the next, and each of the first lines makes up the entirety of the 15th. This chosen formality brings distance and reflection to readers, but also calls attention to the horrifically ugly events. The language is highly figurative in one sonnet, cruelly graphic in the next. The illustrations echo the representative nature of the poetry, using images from nature and taking advantage of the emotional quality of color. There is an introduction by the author, a page about Emmett Till, and literary and poetical footnotes to the sonnets.

The artist also gives detailed reasoning behind his choices. This underpinning information makes this a full experience, eminently teachable from several aspects, including historical and literary—School Library Journal  / Winner of 2012 Frost Medal / The Shocking Story / Carver: A Life

*   *   *   *   *


Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid

By  Frank B. Wilderson III

Wilderson, a professor, writer and filmmaker from the Midwest, presents a gripping account of his role in the downfall of South African apartheid as one of only two black Americans in the African National Congress (ANC). After marrying a South African law student, Wilderson reluctantly returns with her to South Africa in the early 1990s, where he teaches Johannesburg and Soweto students, and soon joins the military wing of the ANC. Wilderson’s stinging portrait of Nelson Mandela as a petulant elder eager to accommodate his white countrymen will jolt readers who’ve accepted the reverential treatment usually accorded him. After the assassination of Mandela’s rival, South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani, Mandela’s regime deems Wilderson’s public questions a threat to national security; soon, having lost his stomach for the cause, he returns to America.

Wilderson has a distinct, powerful voice and a strong story that shuffles between the indignities of Johannesburg life and his early years in Minneapolis, the precocious child of academics who barely tolerate his emerging political consciousness. Wilderson’s observations about love within and across the color line and cultural divides are as provocative as his politics; despite some distracting digressions, this is a riveting memoir of apartheid’s last days.—

Publishers Weekly

*   *   *   *   *

The Prophet of Zongo Street

Stories by Mohammed Naseehu Ali

Vivid images of African life and familiar snippets of expatriate life infuse this debut collection by a Ghana-born writer and musician. On the fictional Zongo Street in Accra, young children gather around their grandmother to hear a creation story from “the time of our ancestors’ ancestors’ ancestors” in “The Story of Day and Night.” In “Mallam Sille,” a weak, 46-year-old virgin tea seller finds soulful strength in marriage to a dominant village woman. Other stories take place in and around New York City, depicting immigrants struggling with American culture and values. A Ghanaian caregiver vows not to “grow old in this country” in “Live-In,” while in “The True Aryan,” an African musician and an Armenian cabbie competitively compare tragic cultural histories on the ride from Manhattan to Brooklyn, achieving humanist understanding as they reach Park Slope:

“I looked into his eyes, and with a sudden deep respect said to the man, ‘I’ll take your pain, too.’ ” Several stories close in a similarly magical, almost folkloric epiphany, as when sleep becomes an attempt “to bring calm to the pulsing heart of Man” in “The Manhood Test.” Ali speaks melodiously but not always provocatively in these tales of transition and emigration.—Publishers Weekly

*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *


*   *   *   *   *







update 6 February 2012




Home  Amin Sharif Table

Related files: Approved Killing in Mississippi