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A Death in the Delta: The Story of Emmett Till Paperback – 1 Nov 1991

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A Death in the Delta: The Story of Emmett Till + Emmett Till: The Sacrificial Lamb of the Civil Rights Movement
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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; Reprint edition (1 Nov. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080184326X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801843266
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 15.6 x 1.5 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 224,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Till's sensational case, succinctly reported here, imparted a crucially vital impulse to the civil rights movement of the '60s.

(Publishers Weekly)

Whitfield... is able to write with power, strength, and persuasion.

(Raymond T. Diamond American Journal of Legal History)

A brilliant piece of work—the definitive book on the Till case.

(Hodding Carter III)

A powerful recreation of a terrifying episode in American race relations... Evocatively written and intellectually engaging, this book will appeal to anyone interested in understanding the roots of our continuing racial dilemma.

(Dan T. Carter, author of Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South)

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First Sentence
The seamless web of history must be broken somewhere, and i am breaking it here to relate Till's story. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 9 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Steven H Propp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Emmett Louis "Bobo" Till (July 25, 1941 - August 28, 1955) was an African-American boy who at 14 years old was murdered in Mississippi after reportedly flirting with a white woman. Stephen J. Whitfield is a professor at Brandeis University.

Whitfield writes in the Preface to this 1988 book, "A Death in the Delta is not a general history of lynching in microcosm, nor is it an examination of the rape complex, not is it intended as more than an illustration of the fatal operations of white supremacy. I have tried only to be faithful to the relevant facts of the case, to elicidate its impact, and then to consider its significance."

Here are some quotations from the book:

"A shaken Carolyn Bryant immediately told Juanita Milam about the incident. A black male who she had never seen before, physically larger than she was, and who was accompanied by black adolescents (most of them males), had grabbed her, held her, propositioned her, insulted her, and whistled at her. She had no way of knowing that the whole idea was probably a tasteless prank. Yet both Mrs. Bryant and her sister-in-law agreed to conceal the episode from their husbands." (Pg. 19)
"(The killers) claimed that to their amazement Till did not whimper or beg for mercy or show remorse. He may not have suspected how much danger he was in. To the contrary, they asserted, he continued to boast of white girls with whom he was intimate, and once again pulled out his wallet to prove his conquests." (Pg. 20-21)
"Governor White explicitly denied that Emmett Till had been the victim of a lynching: 'It is a straight-out murder.' The question was not only semantic. Categorized as an ordinary homicide, the case would discourage outside interest and intervention. A 'lynching, by contrast, might stimulate inquiries into race relations when national attitudes were growing less tolerant of 'the Southern way of life'..." (Pg. 24-25)
"But one scholar who interviewed several of the jurors seven years later learned that all the ballots had been for acquittal. The jurors had 'deliberated' so long because the sheriff-elect, Harry Dogan, sent word to wait a while, to make it 'look good.'" (Pg. 42)
"But in any event, the white accomplices of Bryant and Milam have remained anonymous. They, too, it seems, got away with murder." (Pg. 56)
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Great Historical Perspective 14 Jan. 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Not only did this book provide great in-depth details of the Till murder, but it also provided a great narrative on how the murder affected and possibly jump started the civil rights movement. I'll rate it 4 out of 5 stars...
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
a death in the delta 26 Oct. 2013
By george c. luckette - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
one of the most profound books ever written about this tragedy in the delta, those that have not lived in that time period should look back a realize where it was we came from and not waste time today on self destruction...this book gets in to the very heart of yesterday and shows a side of america that is covered up or forgotten...read this book and learn...
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Good but not great 18 Jan. 2009
By R.L. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I haven't read this book since May of 1991 but the book was very helpful to me at the time. In 1991 there were not a lot of books on this subject and I was making a trip to Money, Mississippi.

Although I enjoyed the book, there were a few things that I troubled me. I believe Mr. Whitfield wrote towards the end of this book that Roy Bryant had an unlisted phone number because he was afraid somebody would try to avenge Emmett Till's murder and come to his Ruleville house in order to exact revenge. If my memory is correct (and this was almost 18 years ago), Roy Bryant lived in Ruleville, Mississippi. In mid May 1991, I called directory assistance and they gave me Roy Bryant's phone number and address. A week later, I drove from Chicago to Mississippi. After visiting Money and several of the other places that are mentioned in books about Emmett Till, my wife and I drove to Mr. Bryant's Ruleville neighborhood and got the name of a nearby street. We then drove past Roy Bryant's house and he was outside in his driveway in black pants and a white shirt (his clothes looked pretty much the same as the ones he was wearing in the 1955 photos of him). After driving past his house, I turned my car around and drove back to Mr. Bryant's house. I stopped my car about 15 yards away from Roy Bryant. I pretended that I was lost and I called out to him. I wanted to see him up close to make sure he was the same Roy Bryant who had murdered Emmett Till. He approached our car and I asked him how to get to some street (which I knew was located close to his street). He looked exactly like he did in the photos from Life Magazine (just older). He had aged but it was definitely him. He leaned down to talk to me and his face was less than a foot from my wife's face. I thanked him for the directions and we drove away. Of course there were things I was dying to ask him, but I was fairly certain he wouldn't answer my questions and I also wasn't willing to let my curiosity and search for truth put my wife's life in danger. From about a distance of 80 yards from Mr. Bryant's house, I took a photo of him and we drove off. I took the photo only because I wanted to prove to author Stephen Whitfield that what he wrote in his book "A Death in the Delta" was inaccurate and that Mr. Bryant could easily be found. Authors have a responsibility to write accurate information and I was disappointed by this obvious error. Mr.Whitfield lost a lot of credibility with me. I never sent Mr. Whitfield the photo but I did call him when I returned from Mississippi and I told him what I did and what I found out. I found Stephen Whitfield to be an extremely nice man and he wasn't at all defensive about what I had discovered. I enjoyed his well-researched book in spite of the one obvious innacuracy regarding Roy Bryant. Mr. Whitfield told me that his own wife would never be willing to make the trip to Money, Mississippi and he was amazed that my wife was willing to go there during precious vacation time. I was disappointed that Stephen Whitfield never travelled to Money, Mississippi before writing his book. I never understood how one could write a book on Emmett Till without going to Money, Mississippi. It's like writing a book on the New York Yankees without having ever been to Yankee Stadium or New York. I've been to Money, Mississippi twice. The first time (May of 1991), it was in the evening and the people at the gas station next to Bryant's grocery store were giving my wife and I really dirty looks. They knew why we were there and they resented us for being there. The second time (May 1996)I was there with my wife and my daughter (who was just a few weeks shy of her third birthday). The three of us met a local man at the Money, Mississippi post office who said he had been a juror on the Till case when he was young man. He was a very nice man as well, and I just couldn't understand how he could have allowed Roy Bryant and Big Milam to go unpunished. Bryant's grocery store had deteriorated significantly in the five years since I had last been there. I've always tried to find the exact location of the tar paper shack from which a confused Emmett Till was taken in the middle of the night in late August of 1955. The shack was destroyed years ago but I wanted to know where it once stood. I hope someday I can go back and somebody can show me where it once stood.

One reviewer criticized Mr. Whitfield for laying the blame of this tragedy solely on the shoulders of Big Milam, Roy Bryant and Emmett Till's cousin. I don't believe that Mr. Whitfield did lay the blame solely on them. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe he just wrote that Carolyn Bryant didn't want her husband to find out what had happened. There are things about the Emmett Till tragedy that we will never know. We will never know for sure what Emmett Till did and said in Bryant's grocery store in late August of 1955. We can only guess. We also will never know for sure what role Carolyn Bryant played in Till's death. I do find it very plausible that Carolyn Bryant tried to keep her husband from knowing what had happened. Just as a heterosexual man might be embarrassed today about a gay man "hitting" on him, Carolyn Bryant would have been embarrassed to have people find out what had happened that evening in 1955. She also probably knew that her husband was a loose cannon and that if he found out, he would do something horrible which in turn would give added life to the story (that she wanted to go away). Most of the blame for Till's death should go to the two half-brothers and anybody else who participated in Till's murder. Some of the blame must go to anybody who incited or informed Roy Bryant about the incident. But you could easily make a case that President Eisenhower (a good man) and our entire society were also to blame for Emmett Till's tragic death.
Good overview of this time in history 4 Aug. 2014
By billyg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A good broad outline of Emmitt Till's death. It could have used more depth but tells the basic story well. More people need to know this important story.
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