06 June 2005

Justice, 50 years late

Have a look here for an excellent Guardian article on the reopening of the case on the murder of Emmett Till; a black boy murdered in Missippi in 1955, whose white killers were acquitted by an all white jury. As Gary Younge writes, one of the defendants' laywer told the jury: "Your fathers will turn over in their graves [if Milam and Bryant are found guilty] and I'm sure that every last Anglo-Saxon one of you has the courage to free these men in the face of that [outside] pressure." It took the jury just 67 minutes to return a not-guilty verdict. One of the jurors said they would have returned earlier if they had not stopped for a soda." (See also the NY Times here). Notice that the murder and the trial took place after Brown v. Board of Education had banned segregation in schools. Then, the sheer brutality of the murder, and open role of racism in the trial made the case to be one of the very first to be extensively reported in the Northern States (see also Robert Caro's book, referred to earlier in my post on filibusters). As such, it galvanized support for the early civil rights movement. Today, the case is a tragic reminder of the contrast between civil rights at the Supreme Court and 'on the ground' in the Southern States. Justice - some? perhaps? - 50 years late. But at the same time; all of this happened only 50 years ago.

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