A Death in the Delta: The Story of Emmett Till

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JHU Press, 1988 - Biography & Autobiography - 193 pages
3 Reviews

In August 1955, the mutilated body of Emmett Till—a fourteen-year-old black Chicago youth—was pulled from Mississippi's Tallahatchie River. Abducted, severely beaten, and finally thrown into the river with a weight fastened around his neck with barbed wire, Till, an eighth-grader, was killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. The nation was horrified by Till's death. When the all-white, all-male jury hastily acquitted the two white defendants, the outcry reached a frenzied pitch—spurring a fury that would prove critical in the mobilization of black resistance to white racism in the Deep South.

In this sensitive inquiry, historian Stephen J. Whitfield probes Till's death; its ideological roots; the potent myths concerning race, sexuality, and violence; and the incident's enduring effects on American national life. As he recreates the trial, its participants, and the social structure of the Delta, Whitfield examines how white rural Mississippians actually tried "two of their own." Though they were acquitted, these same defendants were soon being ostracized by their own neighbors, and within four months of Till's death, Southern blacks were staging the historic Montgomery bus boycott—the first major battle in the coming war against racial injustice that would lead to the passage of civil rights legislation a decade later.


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Review: A Death in the Delta: The Story of Emmett Till

User Review  - Guy Parker - Goodreads

Sometimes the author beats a drum that's off time. Read full review

Review: A Death in the Delta: The Story of Emmett Till

User Review  - Alison Becker - Goodreads

Interesting but overly academic treatment of the Emmett Till case. Not a smooth read per se, but packed with information. Read full review


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About the author (1988)

STEPHEN J. WHITFIELD is Professor of American Studies at Brandeis University, and author of seven other books, including The Culture of the Cold War (1990), A Death in the Delta: The Story of Emmett Till (1988), and American Space, Jewish Time (1988).