Alvin Sykes may be a high school dropout, but he knows how to make senators listen and murderers sweat.

Justice at Last? 

Alvin Sykes may be a high school dropout, but he knows how to make senators listen and murderers sweat.

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"I saw his tongue had been choked out, and it was lying down on his chin. I saw that this [right] eye was out, and it was lying about midway down the cheek. I looked at this eye, and it was gone. I looked at the bridge of his nose, and it looked like someone had taken a meat chopper and chopped it. And I looked at his teeth, because I took so much pride in his teeth. His teeth were the prettiest things I'd ever seen in my life, I thought, and I only saw two. Where are the rest of them? They'd just been knocked out. I was looking at his ears. His ears were like mine ... they curled up the same way mine are, and I didn't see the ear. Where's the ear? And that's when I discovered a hole about here, and I could see daylight on the other side.... And I also discovered that they had taken an ax, and they had gone straight down across his head, and the face and the back of the head were separate."

Beauchamp's film cuts to a photo of the corpse's head. The audience at the Gem Theater gasps.

Wanting the world to see what happened to her son, Till-Mobley holds an open-casket funeral. Thousands show up. Women faint in the line of mourners; others have to be carried out.

From here, Beauchamp's film turns to Emmett's killers — Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam. With his bald head and beady eyes, Milam embodies human swine; in the courtroom, the handsome Bryant bounces his two toddlers on his lap — a good family man who has just beaten someone else's son to death.

The September trial was a media circus even by today's standards.

Emmett's mother on TV: "It's my opinion that the guilt begins with Mrs. Bryant, and I want to see Mrs. Bryant punished, her husband and any other persons that were in on this thing. And I feel like the pressure should start with the president of the United States and be channeled all the way down to the township of Money, Mississippi."

Activists repeat a decades-long call for federal anti-lynching laws, but President Dwight Eisenhower and Congress fail to act.

Tallahatchie County Sheriff H.C. Strider: "I'd like for the NAACP or any colored organization anywhere to know that we intend to give a fair and impartial trial.... We never have any trouble until some of our Southern niggers go up north and the NAACP talks to them and they come back home."

It takes the all-white jury an hour to acquit Milam and Bryant. Outside, the two men light up cigars.

"I'm just glad it's over with," Roy Bryant says before he and Carolyn flaunt a long, jaw-grinding kiss.

Four months later, Look magazine pays Milam and Bryant $4,000 to publish their confession. (Beauchamp's movie avoids excerpts, but the article includes quotes from Milam such as, "I just decided it was time a few people got put on notice. As long as I live and can do anything about it, niggers are gonna stay in their place. Niggers ain't gonna vote where I live. If they did, they'd control the government. They ain't gonna go to school with my kids. And when a nigger gets close to mentioning sex with a white woman, he's tired o' livin'.")

Double-jeopardy law prevents prosecutors from putting the killers on trial again for the murder.

Beauchamp's isn't the first documentary about Emmett Till. But he got Simeon Wright to speak up after five decades of silence, and Wright hooked up Beauchamp with other witnesses. Early screenings of Beauchamp's work in progress sparked new interest in the case, and national news outlets have reported that the film is one reason that federal agents in May 2004 opened a new investigation into Till's murder.

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