Mississippi Trial, 1955
(Phylis Fogelman Books, ISBN 0-8037-2745-3)
The Civil Rights Movement. Search the topic on the internet or in a history textbook and the names Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X are prominent. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, Freedom Rides, and the March on Washington are listed as important events in the forward movement of the cause. But one name and event is often missing in the story: Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old black boy from Chicago who was brutally murdered, his body dumped in the Tallahatchie River, for allegedly whistling at a white woman. While doing an interview for a biography titled Presenting Mildred D. Taylor, BYU professor Chris Crowe first heard about Emmett Till and knew it was a story that must be shared.
Told though the eyes of Hiram Hillburn, a white teenager who has come to stay the summer with his grandfather, the reader is taken into the heart of racism at a time when the passions of the south were volatile and violent. Hiram sees changes in his beloved south, his friends, and even his grandfather; changes which make him doubt his own safety. Hiram witnesses R.C. Rydell force Emmett to eat a raw fish at knife-point. Hiram’s grandfather offers no sympathy, warning that “colored boys like Emmett should know better than to push himself on white folks.” After Emmett is murdered, Hiram doesn’t want to stay silent, he wants the truth to be told, even if it uncovers secrets about his own family.
Parents should read this book along with their teens and discuss the issue of racism as it stands in our country today and what can be done to prevent it.