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Mississippi Trial, 1955 Hardcover – May 27, 2002


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Basing his promising debut novel on historical events, Crowe adopts the point of view of a white teenager confronting racism in the 1950s South. Hiram Hillburn has resented his civil-rights-minded father ever since the age of nine, when his parents moved him from his adored grandfather's home in Greenwood, Miss., to the more liberal climate of an Arizona college town. Now that he is 16, Hiram has finally been permitted to visit Grampa Hillburn again. Crowe takes a bit too much time before arriving at the central action: the lynching of Emmett Till, a black teenager from Chicago who reputedly made "ugly remarks" to a white woman, and the nationally publicized trial, in which the murderers were acquitted. However, the author takes a nuanced approach to ethical dilemmas and his plotting seems lifelike. Events force Hiram to question his willingness to stand up for his beliefs and to reevaluate his understanding of the animosity between his grandfather and father. The characterizations are sketched with care, from the white lawyers who mock the black witnesses they cross-examine, to R.C., the bully whom Hiram suspects of participating in the crime, to R.C.'s sister, whom Hiram likes. If the conclusion feels a little hasty, Crowe's otherwise measured treatment will get readers thinking. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 6-8-While visiting relatives in Mississippi, Emmett Till, 14, spoke "ugly" to a white woman and was subsequently tortured and murdered. Two men were arrested and tried for this heinous crime, but in spite of substantial evidence, were found not guilty. Crowe has woven the plot of his novel around these historical events. Hiram, the fictional main character, had lived with his grandparents in Mississippi as a child. Now 16, he returns to visit his aging grandfather, where he meets Emmett Till. He also renews a childhood acquaintance with R.C. Rydell, a redneck bully. When Emmett's mutilated body is found, Hiram immediately suspects that R.C. was involved. In a predictable twist at the end, he learns that it was his grandfather, not R.C., who helped the murderers. The Deep South setting is well realized. Descriptions of the climate, food, and landscape are vivid and on target. Likewise, Southern racial attitudes from the period are accurately portrayed. Grampa is a racist but Hiram enables readers to see his good qualities as well. Hiram himself seems rather naive. He is unable to fathom the racial prejudice at the root of his father's alienation from his grandfather. Nor does he feel the aura of racial fear and hatred that hangs over the entire region. The novel succeeds in telling Emmett Till's story, but there is an emotional distance that keeps readers from caring as deeply as they should about this crime. Still, it is a story that needs to be told. This book belongs in all collections to show young readers the full range of American history.
Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 870L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 231 pages
  • Publisher: Dial (May 27, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803727453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803727458
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,779,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chris Crowe was born in Danville, Illinois, and attended schools in Illinois, New Mexico, and California before his parents settled down in Tempe, Arizona, where he graduated from McKemy Junior High and McClintock High School. He attended Brigham Young University on a football scholarship (and played in the 1974 Fiesta Bowl) and earned a BA in English. He taught English at McClintock High for 10 years while attending Arizona State University part-time, earning his masters and doctorate degrees.

He is the author of several books, most notably MISSISSIPPI TRIAL, 1955, which won several awards, including the 2003 International Reading Association's Young Adult Novel Award. His nonfiction book, GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER: THE TRUE STORY OF THE EMMETT TILL CASE, was an Jane Addams Honor book. His first children's book, JUST AS GOOD: HOW LARRY DOBY CHANGED AMERICA'S GAME, appeared in 2012. His newest book is a historical novel DEATH COMING UP THE HILL, scheduled to be released in October 2014.

Chris married his high school sweetheart, and they live in Provo, Utah, where he works in the English department at BYU. They are the parents of four children and grandparents of two lovely girls and three handsome boys.

Customer Reviews

This book will win awards.
Karen Glennon
To see what really happened you'll have to read this great book.
Strawberry bear
My students were required to read this novel.
LovelyRogers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By L. Darin on February 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
Mississippi Trial, 1955 is an eye-opening account of the tragic events leading up to the murder of Emmett Till, an African American boy from Chicago visiting relatives in 1950's Mississippi. This fictional story is based on true events and is told through the eyes of Hiram Hilburn, a white 16-year-old boy visiting his beloved grandfather in Mississippi for the summer. As a tentative connection forms between Hiram and Emmett, Hiram must soon face the realities around him as a local young man from Mississippi decides to viciously show Emmett his place. This initial attack triggers a chain of events that lead to the brutal murder of Emmett. As Hiram begins to see the depth of hatred and racism around him, he finally starts to understand the reasons behind the tension in the relationship between his grandfather and his civil rights-minded father. This story illustrates Hiram's inner struggle as he discovers difficult truths about the grandfather he loves, and comes face to face with the harsh and ugly realities of racism in the south. This book does a wonderful job of giving readers a glimpse into a dark part of our country's history that needs to be remembered, examined, and learned from - not forgotten. As a reader I felt like I was there is Mississippi with Hiram as he struggled with his own feelings and whether he should risk his own safety to do what he felt was right. This is an excellent book that is tough to read at times, but that shines a light on human darkness and demands that we don't look away. I highly recommend this book!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lu Ann Staheli on September 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Montgomery Bus Boycott, Freedom Rides, and the March on Washington. But one name and event is often missing: 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.
Told though the eyes of Hiram Hillburn, a white teenager who has come to spend 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 should know better than to push themselves 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.
Discuss of racism as it stands in our country today, and what can be done to prevent it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Bartlo on February 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is an eye opening book, one in which the author Chris Crowe takes you to the south in the 1950's when hate and fear were the norm. This book takes the reader through the tragic events that lead to the horrific murder of African American teen Emmitt Till as seen from Hiram's point of view. Hiram, a teen himself, comes back to live with his grandfather in Mississippi for the summer, only to learn that the place and people he loved most are racist- just what his father has been warning him about all along. Now Hiram is beginning to experience and appreciate his father's point of view first hand.

This novel is the perfect example of why traditional text books just aren't cutting it in today's classrooms. This is because Mississippi Trial-1955 is retelling a part of our history (unknown to many) in an interesting and very real way, unlike the dry and often "hand selected" pieces of history that go into mass produced texts overflowing with massively misleading and forgotten yet important details of our history . I highly encourage the use of quality historical fiction in all Social Studies/History classrooms especially Mississippi Trial-1955 by Chris Crowe.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I just finished this book tonight and I will say it is one of the best books I've read in a long time. The protagonist, Hiram, doesn't exactly get along with his father, especially where his grandfather is concerned. So when his father finally permits him to go to Greenwood, he is thrilled. But the town isn't how he remembers it to be. It is all perfectly clear when his 'friend' R.C. forces Emmett Till, a black youth from Chicago visiting his uncle, to eat fish guts. When Emmett whistles at a white woman, things go sour, and R.C. talks about wanting to go with a few men who invited him to teach Emmett a lesson. But then Emmett goes missing and when his body is found, Hiram has a feeling R.C. might be one of the men involved with the boy's brutal murder. Though two of the men, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, involved are on trial, it isn't known who the other two (a man and a woman) are. Will justice come to the Till family? And who else was involved in the murder of Emmett Till?
This book was excellent - the characterization, the setting, description, plot...it was a well-written, well-thought-out book. I recommend it to anybody who is looking for a good book on prejudice and the Civil Rights movement. It will really get you thinking.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Erinn C. Leverett on April 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
If you are not a teacher, you probably don't want to read this review...

We were introduced to this book through a graduate class and were intrigued with the idea that Chris Crowe's book renewed interest in the life, death and trial of Emmett Till. Our reviews, however, are conflicting. Truth be told, only one out of four of us would use this in our classroom. Our debates range from accurate portayal of historical events to an intriguing narrative intended to stimulate interest.
Exagggerated and invented events are the author's license, but when used to dramatize the already factually horrific events of Emmett's demise, they weaken the impact it had on us and we wonder who was impacted enough to pursue a reopening of the case.
The one teacher who would use this book in her classroom felt like the book represented the historical fiction genre well and would be engaging for middle school students. This is an ideal gateway book to pique curiosity into learning more about Emmett Till and origins of the Civil Rights Movement.

Meghan MC, Chris W., Lori O. and Erinn L.
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