From Publishers Weekly
Nearly 50 years after the murder of Emmett Till, his mother, Till-Mobley, has added her perspective on the tragedy. In what came to be seen as a seminal event in the fledgling civil rights movement, two white men abducted 14-year-old Emmett from the home of a relative in rural Mississippi in August 1955. That night they tortured the boy before dumping his lifeless body into the Tallahatchie River. His crime: he inadvertently whistled in the vicinity of a white woman who happened to be the wife of one of his killers. Although the events surrounding the murder have been recounted many times, Till-Mobley fills readers in on her son's childhood in Argo, Ill., and later Chicago. As a single mother, she tried to instill Emmett with self-confidence and a sense of life's possibilities. In her view, these two qualities helped cause his death when he journeyed to Mississippi, where the "code" demanded that blacks efface themselves in the presence of whites. Her memoir, written with Chicago journalist Benson, is told chronologically, with a large portion devoted to the events leading up to the murder and its aftermath. As she puts it, "I wanted to rip the sheets off the state of Mississippi." Till-Mobley, who died last January, spent the final 35 years of her life as a teacher and spokesperson for civil rights. While her accomplishments are admirable, her memoir has a perfunctory quality, except when describing the events surrounding Emmett's murder, and the narrative voice is uneven. Till-Mobley was a social activist but not necessarily a social critic. As a result, the example of her life is far more valuable than the insights that she draws from it.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The mere mention of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Chicago boy murdered in Mississippi in 1955, brings horrific memories for Americans. Till, on vacation in the south, was reportedly killed for whistling at a white woman. His murder and mutilation--he was wrapped in barbed wire and thrown into a river--shook the conscience of America and became a central stimulus for the modern civil rights movement. The graphic brutality of the murder and the courage of Till's mother were imprinted on American consciousness as she chose an open casket that displayed the horror of the crime to the world. In this as-told-to memoir, Till-Mobley recalls her son's early childhood through his 14 years of life. The second half of the book focuses on Till-Mobley herself, a woman determined to find meaning in the life and murder of her young son. Relying on the love and support of family, Till-Mobley earned college degrees late in life, works with the church, and makes a career of giving hope to other youth, surely meeting her objective that her son not have died in vain. Vernon FordCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved