Mississippi Trial, 1955--Chris Crowe
May 2002 by Dial
At first Hiram is excited to visit his hometown in Mississippi. But soon after he arrives, he crosses paths with Emmett Till, a black teenager from Chicago who is also visiting for the summer, and Hiram sees firsthand how the local whites mistreat blacks who refuse to "know their place." When Emmett's tortured dead body is found floating in a river, Hiram is determined to find out who could do such a thing. But what will it cost him to know?
I learned about the Emmett Till trial just a couple of years ago and it surprises me that this isn't included in our general education about the Civil Rights Movement. I think it's something that needs to be discussed in our conversations about race and equality and injustice. I think Mississippi Trial, 1955 does a good job of framing the trial and the events leading up to it, but it misses the mark on a couple of other things.
What bugged me most was that Hirum pulls a 180 about halfway through the book for no apparent reason. First he hates his dad and can't see eye to eye with him on anything. Then, poof. He sees his dad's side of things and becomes too forward thinking for his time period and his previous actions. This turn around should have been preceded by a number of small things that made Hirum question his belief system before he made his full transition rather than happening in one fell swoop.
As the title indicates, this book focuses on the trial rather than on Emmett Till himself. I'm not sure if I liked that or not. It did highlight the fact that while most Mississippians did not kill Emmett, they did support the system that promoted the behavior and thinking that allowed the murder to happen. But I would have liked to know Emmett more as a person.
I really like that this book confronts the fact that good, normal people are capable of doing horrible things. Not many of us are willing to face that fact. We like to think of evil as something that exists outside of us. But I firmly believe that there are very few full-on monsters out there, just a lot of partial ones. Mississippi Trial makes us face the partial monsters within all of us.