Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case

Crowe, Chris. Getting Away with Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case. Dial, 2003. 128pp. Lexile 1210.

Emmett Till would have been 74 this year.  He was born in 1941 and killed on August 28th, 1955.  The murder of Emmett Till and the trial in which his killers, who later confessed, were acquitted had a profound effect on the Civil Rights Movement.  This painful but important story concerns Till, a fourteen-year-old African-American boy from Chicago, visiting his relatives in small-town Mississippi in 1955. Having allegedly called a white woman “baby,” he was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by local white men.  Crowe conveys the vicious prejudice and the sense of white superiority that led to Till’s death.  The straightforward writing lets facts and quotes speak for themselves.  It sets the murder and trial in context, shortly after Brown v. Board of Education was decided, and at a time when blacks and women could not serve on Mississippi juries.  The country’s stunned reaction to the photographs of Till’s body and the unjust trial come across as well.  Black-and-white photographs, a timeline, lists of further reading and websites, and a bibliography enrich the book.

Fiction, Poetry, & Drama Tie-ins:  Crowe lists several responses in art to the Till story: plays by Toni Morrison and James Baldwin, a Bob Dylan song, and a Gwendolyn Brooks poem.  Crowe has also written a novel, Mississippi 1955, that tells the story of Till’s murder and trial through the viewpoint of a white teenager.  Pair any of these with the nonfiction book to show different approaches to the same subject.  Older readers may appreciate the beautiful, intricate sonnets in Marilyn Nelson's A Wreath for Emmett Till.