cover image GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case

GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case

Chris Crowe, . . Penguin Putnam/Fogelman, $18.99 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2804-2

Crowe (Mississippi Trial, 1955) revisits the subject of his debut novel, this time as nonfiction, with an even more searing impact. He builds a strong argument that "the outrage that followed [Emmett's] death and the acquittal of his murderers finally launched the movement to combat racism in the United States." The opening scene, reconstructed from court statements and documents, tells how 14-year-old Emmett Till was taken from his great-uncle's Mississippi home, where the boy was visiting from Chicago, to be killed by two white men. Emmett's crime: he had allegedly whistled at and made 'ugly remarks' to a white woman" in a 1955 segregated South where whites were still bristling from the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. The narrative then slows a bit to paint the historical scene, but quickly gains momentum again as Crowe compellingly describes Emmett's perspective, coming from an experience of comparative freedom in the north, as he entered the world of his southern relatives, thus setting a backdrop for tensions to unfold. Striking photographs illustrate an era of contradictions, such as an all-American boy brandishing a sign bearing a racist slogan. The acts of bravery may impress readers most, especially the decision by Maud Till Bailey, Emmett's mother, to open his casket and "Let the people see what they did to my boy," and his Uncle Mose Wright taking the stand to identify the white defendants (immediately thereafter, he had to flee Mississippi or risk being murdered himself). Crowe pays powerful tribute to a boy whose untimely death spurred a national chain of events. Ages 12-up. (May)