Book Review: Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime that Changed America by Mamie Till-Mobley and Christopher Benson

Book Review Death of Innocence By Mamie Till-Mobley {living outside the stacks} #LivingOutsideTheStacks #TeamLOTSReads #BGMRead

Author: Mamie Till-Mobley and Christopher Benson

Genre: African American Fiction

Publisher: Random House

Publication Date: 7 December 2011

Format: Kindle Edition

Pages: 320

ABOUT THE BOOK {from the back of the book}

The mother of Emmett Till recounts the story of her life, her son’s tragic death, and the dawn of the civil rights movement—with a foreword by the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

In August 1955, a fourteen-year-old African American, Emmett Till, was visiting family in Mississippi when he was kidnapped from his bed in the middle of the night by two white men and brutally murdered. His crime: allegedly whistling at a white woman in a convenience store. The killers were eventually acquitted.

What followed altered the course of this country’s history—and it was all set in motion by the sheer will, determination, and courage of Mamie Till-Mobley, whose actions galvanized the civil rights movement, leaving an indelible mark on our racial consciousness. Death of Innocence is an essential document in the annals of American civil rights history, and a painful yet beautiful account of a mother’s ability to transform tragedy into boundless courage and hope.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mamie Till-Mobley died on 6 January 2003. Following the death of her only child, she entered Chicago Teachers College. In 1973, she earned a master’s degree in administration and supervision at Loyola University. She was a frequent lecturer throughout the country.

For more information about the murder of Emmett Till, visit the Emmett Till Project.

MY OPINION

I thought I knew the story of Emmett Till.

I had no idea.

I remember seeing the photo of his mutilated body in an anniversary edition of Jet magazine and being absolutely horrified. I think I was about 12 or 13 years old at the time. Almost the same age as Emmett Till when he was brutally murdered by two white men. I remember sitting on the bathroom floor with the magazine in my lap just staring and crying. I couldn’t imagine what he must have gone through.

Then I read this:

At some point during his ordeal, in the last moments of his precious little life, Emmett must have cried out. Two names. “God” and “Mama.” And no one answered the call.

Page 137

And it hit me harder than ever before that Emmett Till is not just an historical figure, he was someone’s son. He was Mrs. Till-Mobley’s son. Her baby.

Reading about Emmett Till’s life from Mrs. Till-Mobley’s perspective was both heartbreaking and illuminating. Mrs. Till-Mobley talked about everything from her own upbringing through the trial of Emmett’s murderers. The emotion is raw and very real. I felt like I was sitting in the same room with her, listening to her recount her love, horror, sadness, and frustration. I felt her strength and resolve when she made the history changing decision to have an open casket for her son. I felt her crumble when she realized her baby was really gone. I straightened in my chair when I read about how God gave her the strength she needed to testify. My stomach dipped when I read about the acquittal.

I thought I knew the story of Emmett Till.

I had no idea.

One of the things that I didn’t expect was how much this book would make me smile and nod in agreement. Mrs. Till-Mobley’s upbringing was incredibly similar to mine – that connection made me admire her more. As I read her remembrances of watching her baby grow up, I imagined Mrs. Till-Mobley smiling as she saw him in her mind’s eye. I imagined her pausing to wipe away tears. I imagined her laughing as she remembered something only a mother could appreciate.

I thought of my own children and the life that could have been theirs but for the Grace of God and the strength of one mother who endured the unthinkable.

I would recommend this book as a supplementary study guide for the Civil Rights Movement. Because of the nature of the book and the way it’s written, there are a wide variety of topics for discussion for both written and in-class assignments.

While this book does not contain coarse language, there are, of course, vivid descriptions of violence and racism.

MY FAVORITE QUOTE

Somewhere between the fact we know and the anxiety we feel is the reality we live.

Page 19

PURCHASING OPTION

THE BOOK GIRL MAGIC READING CHALLENGE

THEME: TRUE STORY

The March theme for the Book Girl Magic Reading Challenge {#BGRChallenge} is True Story. The first time I heard about Emmett Till, I was about 12 years old. We were living in Italy at the time, and our copy of Jet magazine had just arrived from the States. I was sitting on the floor with the magazine in my hands, flipping through the pictures looking for the articles that listed the top songs and TV shows in the U.S. Suddenly, the page opened to the most horrific image I’d ever seen. It was Mrs. Till being held up as she gazed upon the battered body of her son.

This was a commemorative edition of the original article that was reprinted to acknowledge the anniversary of Emmett Till’s murder

At first, I didn’t know what I was looking at. Honestly, I think, in that moment, I thought it was a potato but there was a suit attached to it. I was 12. I’d never seen anything like that image before in my life. I quickly read the article and tried to make sense of it all. I remember weeping. Not crying. Not bawling. Just weeping.

I knew about slavery. I’d seen Roots and Roots: The Next Generations. I knew about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. I’d always been interested in history, so I knew about lynchings and such. What I didn’t know was that a child had been lynched. A boy not much older than myself had been lynched because he may or may not have whistled at a white woman.

That article and that image have stayed with me ever since. When I teach American history, I show the photograph. Raw and unedited, just as I saw it as a child. And I still weep. I weep for Mrs. Till-Mobley who lost her son. I weep for the countless women who’ve lost family members to hatred and violence.

Emmett Till isn’t just Emmett Till, he is the face of the unknown. Those people who were murdered and buried and never heard from again. His mom, through her selfless act, gave those people a voice. And a name.

I’m happy that, through this book, I finally got to meet Emmett Till- the son – and Mrs. Mobley – the mother.

To see my #BGRChallenge Bookshelf, click here.

Looking for some recommendations? Check out my recommended reading shelf.

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Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? Let’s discuss…

Daenel T {Living Outside the Stacks}

 

 

 

 

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