WBEZ | Mississippi http://www.wbez.org/tags/mississippi Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 6 decades later, acquittal of Emmett Till's killers troubles town http://www.wbez.org/news/6-decades-later-acquittal-emmett-tills-killers-troubles-town-113069 <p><div class="image-insert-image ">It was 60 years ago this week that an all-white jury acquitted two white men in the murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black boy visiting Mississippi from Chicago.</div><p>The case shocked the nation &mdash; drawing attention to the brutal treatment of African-Americans in the Deep South, and the failure of the justice system. The men later confessed to killing Till for whistling at a white woman.</p><p>Today, about 400 people live in Sumner, Miss., where the trial was held. The town sprouts up amid vast expanses of cotton land in the Mississippi Delta &mdash; the fertile northwest corner of the state.</p><p>Sumner&#39;s town square looks a lot like it did 60 years ago. A bank on the corner, law offices and small businesses surround the Tallahatchie County courthouse, its clock tower looming above pink crape myrtle blossoms.</p><p>Inside the courthouse, a dark wood stairwell leads to the second-floor courtroom, which is newly restored.</p><p>&quot;Exactly the way it looked in 1955,&quot; says Patrick Weems, director of the&nbsp;<a href="http://emmett-till.org/" target="_blank">Emmett Till Interpretive Center</a>&nbsp;here. He stands by the carved banister rail at the front of the courtroom. Twelve swiveling jury chairs to the left face the witness box.</p><p>&quot;Mose Wright would have stood up here and given his testimony,&quot; Weems says. &quot;The famous question was, they said, &#39;Do you know the men who murdered Emmett Till?&#39; And he said, &#39;There they are.&#39; &quot;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/9751-copy_custom-03876a1f86bc64b77ab9b1637e20a56e465b27d5-s1200.jpg" title="The courthouse in Sumner, Miss., where, in 1955, an all-white jury acquitted two white men in Till's murder. A debate rages in Mississippi over the state flag, which includes the Confederate flag. But it still flies at the courthouse. (Langdon Clay)" /></div><p>It was a dramatic moment. Never in anyone&#39;s memory had a black man in Mississippi confronted whites in court.</p><p>Mose Wright was Emmett Till&#39;s great-uncle, who lived in the town of Money, 30 miles south of Sumner. Till was staying with him when the teenager made his fateful visit to Bryant&#39;s Grocery and spoke to Carol Bryant, the white woman at the counter.</p><p>Her husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, later kidnapped Till from Wright&#39;s home in the middle of the night. The boy was beaten, shot in the head and dumped in the Tallahatchie River, weighted down by a cotton gin fan.</p><p>Till&#39;s mother held an open-casket funeral back in Chicago so the world could witness the disturbing images of her son&#39;s disfigured body. The resulting outrage drew unprecedented interest in the murder trial a month later.</p><p>&quot;I had never seen anything like it,&quot; says Mississippi state Sen. David Jordan, a college student at the time. &quot;So many people in town. So much news and so much fear.&quot;</p><p>Jordan and some classmates went to the trial, barely finding a seat in the sweltering and packed courtroom. They sat in the rear; the front seats were reserved for white people.</p><p>Sitting in the back row again as the anniversary approached, Jordan recalls being struck by the relaxed nature of the defendants. During one recess, he says, one of their wives brought the children to play at the defense table, along with bottles of Coca-Cola.</p><p>&quot;Just going through a mockery &mdash; it was no justice or no seriousness as I could see on their faces,&quot; Jordan says, &quot;because they all were laughing &mdash; even the jury were laughing.&quot;</p><p>After a five-day trial, Bryant and Milam were acquitted. Jordan thinks it was no coincidence that the verdict came a year after the Supreme Court&#39;s landmark&nbsp;<em>Brown v. Board of Education</em>&nbsp;decision outlawing segregated public schools.</p><p>&quot;The state was set at a point. [It] had been said over and over that &#39;before niggers could go to school with white children, blood will run in the streets,&#39; &quot; Jordan says. &quot;This was evidence, in their mind I assume, that this is the example that the world can see that we mean business.&quot;</p><p>&quot;Mississippi in 1955 was just impossible for a situation like this,&quot; says Betty Pearson, who was 33 years old at the time. Pearson, the wife of a white plantation owner, and state Sen. Jordan are among the last living people who attended the Emmett Till murder trial.</p><p>She says stores throughout the Mississippi Delta had set mason jars by their cash registers to raise money for the defense, and every lawyer in Sumner was representing Bryant and Milam.</p><p>It infuriated her.</p><p>&quot;To me it said that, OK, every white person in Tallahatchie County &mdash; if not in all of Mississippi &mdash; is a racist. And they&#39;re trying to defend these people,&quot; Pearson says. &quot;And I knew that was not true.&quot;</p><p>Pearson, now 93, says that after the trial she was stunned by the silence.</p><p>&quot;I never got one question from a single soul in Sumner,&quot; she says. &quot;Their reaction to it was, if we just ignore it, it&#39;ll go away.&quot;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/till-7e71624c0b801f0a602de1624587af274d5abfef-s1200.jpg" title="Bullet holes riddle the historical marker at the site where Emmett Till's body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River in the rural Mississippi Delta. (Debbie Elliott/NPR)" /></div><p>The courthouse was remodeled in the 1970s, and up until about 10 years ago there was very little said about what transpired here.</p><p>In 2007, Pearson joined a local biracial group that apologized to Till&#39;s family. Another member of the group, the Rev. Willie Williams, says that in the years since, they&#39;ve been working to restore the courthouse and foster reconciliation.</p><p>&quot;Reconciliation is the bridge,&quot; Williams says. But he says there&#39;s still work to be done to restore trust.</p><p>Others believe the Till trial has been a stigma on Sumner that it didn&#39;t deserve; Till was murdered to the south in LeFlore County, but his body was discovered in Tallahatchie.</p><p>John Whitten III practices law in Sumner. His late father was chief counsel for the defense in 1955.</p><p>&quot;We didn&#39;t do it. It didn&#39;t happen here,&quot; Whitten says. &quot;This is something that was dragged in and left to rot in our courthouse.&quot;</p><p>Whitten says that what happened here 60 years ago should never be denied, but that it also should not be honored.</p><p>The state has created a historical trail to show how events, including the Till case, sparked the modern civil rights movement, and there&#39;s a marker here along the banks of the Tallahatchie where Till&#39;s body was pulled from the river.</p><p>But confronting a fraught history has been an ongoing struggle in Mississippi. Today, that marker is riddled with bullet holes.</p><p><em>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/09/25/443205842/six-decades-later-acquittal-of-emmett-tills-killers-troubles-town?ft=nprml&amp;f=443205842">via NPR</a></em></p></p> Fri, 25 Sep 2015 14:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/6-decades-later-acquittal-emmett-tills-killers-troubles-town-113069 Illinois drinking water supplier deals with low river http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-drinking-water-supplier-deals-low-river-104134 <p><p>EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill.&nbsp; &mdash; The utility that supplies drinking water to more than 250,000 residents in southwestern Illinois is taking emergency measures due to the low level of the Mississippi River.</p><p>The Belleville News-Democrat <a href="http://bit.ly/Uw7gBt" target="_blank">reports</a> that officials with Illinois American Water say the measures are needed so that the water supply doesn&#39;t dry up for communities in Madison and St. Clair counties.</p><p>Spokeswoman Karen Cotton says Illinois American Water is investing about $400,000 at the East St. Louis water treatment plant. She says that will allow access to water at a much deeper level of the Mississippi River than the utility&#39;s usual intakes can reach.</p><p>Cotton says company officials believe the move will keep water flowing to customers even if the drought-stricken Mississippi River drops to record-setting low water levels.</p></p> Fri, 30 Nov 2012 10:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-drinking-water-supplier-deals-low-river-104134 Severe weather damages blues label Malaco Records http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-04-25/severe-weather-damages-blues-label-malaco-records-85635 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-April/2011-04-25/Malaco AP Vickie D. King.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>April has brought more than just showers. In fact some local spring weather has been downright violent. A string of tornadoes in Midwest and Southern states left at least 45 dead and property destroyed.<br> <br> One of the buildings that took a big hit was <a href="http://www.malaco.com/Catalog/list.php" target="_blank">Malaco Records</a>. The label is located in Jackson, Mississippi, but it has deep connections to Chicago. Many local blues artists found a home there.<br> <br> To find out more, <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> heard from local record store owner <a href="http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/biography.asp?bioindex=1677&amp;category=Businessmakers&amp;occupation=Record%20Store%20Owner&amp;name=George%20Daniels" target="_blank">George Daniels</a>, who distributed some of Malaco’s titles in Chicago. Daniels told WBEZ’s Richard Steele about limited opportunities for black artists to sell their music.</p><p>Steele also talked to someone personally affected by the destruction of Malaco. Musician <a href="http://www.malaco.com/Catalog/Blues-R-B/Stan-Mosley/list.php" target="_blank">Stan Mosley</a> released several albums on the label, and he told Richard what happened to his recordings.</p></p> Mon, 25 Apr 2011 13:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-04-25/severe-weather-damages-blues-label-malaco-records-85635 Mississippi's Scott Sisters Released http://www.wbez.org/story/around-nation/mississippis-scott-sisters-released <p><p>The Scott sisters, whose case became a national cause for civil rights activists, were released from a Mississippi prison this morning, the Associated Press reports.</p><p>As <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2010/12/30/132477213/barbour-was-moving-on-sisters-case-before-controversial-comments" target="_blank">we said last month</a>, Jamie and Gladys Scott had been incarcerated since 1994 for their roles in an armed robbery that their supporters say netted $11. Civil rights activists took up their cause, and Republican Gov. Haley Barbour decided in December to release them. One condition: That 35-year-old Gladys follow through on her offer to donate a kidney (provided that doctors say it's safe for her to do so) to 38-year-old Jamie, who needs regular dialysis.ed on the condition that one donates a kidney to the other have been released from a Mississippi prison.</p><p>Mississippi's <em>Clarion Ledger </em>has <a href="http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011101070337" target="_blank">much more on the sisters' case</a>. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit <a href="http://www.npr.org/">http://www.npr.org/</a>.<img src="http://metrics.npr.org/b/ss/nprapidev/5/1294412535?&gn=Mississippi%27s+Scott+Sisters+Released&ev=event2&ch=103943429&h1=Mississippi,Gov.+Haley+Barbour,Scott+sisters,National+News,The+Two-Way,Around+the+Nation,U.S.,Home+Page+Top+Stories,News&c3=D%3Dgn&v3=D%3Dgn&c4=132733288&c7=1001&v7=D%3Dc7&c18=1001&v18=D%3Dc18&c19=20110107&v19=D%3Dc19&c20=1&v20=D%3Dc20&c45=MDA0OTc2MjAwMDEyNjk0NDE4OTI2NmUwNQ001"/></p></p> Fri, 07 Jan 2011 08:20:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/around-nation/mississippis-scott-sisters-released