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Comment: Softcover. Shelf/use wears. Pages are discolored. All pages are clean.
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Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America Paperback – December 28, 2004

4.8 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

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 Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: One World/Ballantine; Reprint edition (December 28, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812970470
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812970470
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am a 20 year old black college student that is from Clarksdale, MS. This is a little Delta town near where Emmet's murder was committed and also is mentioned in the book. The horrors described in this book are ones that every child from the Delta is aware of and is cautioned about. The men that murdered Emmett were brutal, merciless, tyrants that deserved the death penalty.
This book moved me to tears simply because of the fact that Mrs. Till never hated or wanted revenge for these men. She just wanted them to show some remorse and hoped that their little boys didn't grow up with the same kind of hatred that killed her son. This book clarified a lot of the myths that I have heard over the years about his death and also showed how strong and determined his mother was. He was her only child, the only boy, and yet she pushed and kept on fighting for him. They brought him home in a box filled with lime so he could deteriorate faster, and she said he didn't even look human, but she fought and never lost in the war of racism. She opened that box that was sealed by the state of Mississippi, and said "let the world see what I've seen". I think that this book is an eye-opener for anyone not familiar with Mississippi and for people that are, it is a raw look at the ugly truth. Mrs. Till went on to become a teacher and influenced lots of more kids with the passion that she would have given Emmett, and I thank her for this look into a heart that was wounded beyond repair and thanks to God, she made it. We made it. Emmett will never be forgotten, his story lives on still.
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Format: Hardcover
For everyone who has heard of Emmett Till and sworn "never again" and for those who don't believe the horrors of life for too many Blacks in the South, this book is essential. This is a mother's story of the brutal murder of her young son and the travesty of justice that followed in a rural Mississippi town in the mid-1950's. She refused to let her son's murder be hidden, and it became an early rallying point for the Civil Rights Movement. Mamie Till-Mobley moves the rock under which the roaches of racism hide and exposes them to the bright light of truth. Her words are both inspirational and disturbing. We don't want to believe that this happened fifty years ago here in the "Land of the Free", but it did. We can't even tell ourselves that it could never happen now, because she tells us of a recent and terrifyingly similar murder of a young Black male in the South. Not far from where I live, four young men have just been charged with burning a cross in the yard of a Black family who had moved into a white neighborhood. Mamie Till-Mobley had her son's casket kept open so the world could see what was done to her son. Now, her book opens the "casket" of the buried past to show us once more.
Mamie Till-Mobley was a courageous woman whose story is very moving. She talks about her youth, her family, her relationship with Emmett, the lives of Blacks in the south and in Chicago. Her story would be an important one solely because she lost a child to violence. However, her story is much, much more. She stands with other Black women of the 20th century: Marian Anderson, Rosa Parks, Coreta Scott King, the mothers of the girls killed in the church bombings.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Most Americans, one assumes, know who Emmitt Till was: a 14 year-old African-American boy who was murdered and brutally mutilated for allegedly whistling at a white girl in Money, Mississippi in the summer of 1955. Few know anything more about the boy or the travesty of justice that followed the trial of those accused of the murder. _Death of Innocence_ is a hard read - a reminder of our not-too-distant past, and of who we Americans are.

The book is Emmitt's story - and that of his mother - written in what I can only assume is her voice: it is plain, simple, and almost bursts with a mother's pride, love and joy for her son. This, of course, makes the reading all the more powerful and tragic reading her reaction and emotions upon learning of the death of her son. The book is also the story of the Civil Rights Movement - of what the Jim Crow south was like, of its petty indignities, the daily injustices African-Americans had to face, and of the brutal realities those who did not "play by the rules" faced. For me, these were equally powerful - too many think only of lunchcounter sit-ins, Rosa Parks and the bus boycott, or Brown v. Board (the Supreme Court decision ironically handed down the same year of Emmitt's death.) This is a reminder that it was much more about who gets to eat or sit where.

The first quarter of the book is a bit dull as Mamie Till shares the minutae and details of Emmitt's growing up; this later serves to heighten the emotional impact of her loss. The retelling Mamie gave her son before he went to Mississippi to visit family is chilling: always respond with "Ma'am" or "Sir" when speaking to a white person. Don't look white folks in the eye. When a white approaches, step off the sidewalk into the street, look down, and don't look back when they pass.
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