The Boy in the River

What can a 1955 lynching tell us about Jasper?

They found the body of the 14-year-old floating in the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi. His name was Emmett Till. It was August 1955. By that year, reports of lynchings had become shallow waters compared with the swollen river of death that claimed thousands during the post-Reconstruction period and into the first decades of this century. But the mid-century lynching of the child Emmett Till became one of the tributaries that fed into a different kind of river, the flood of the civil rights movement.

Forty-three years separate the dead bodies of Emmett Till and James Byrd Jr., both black, both outnumbered...

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