The Emmett Till Murder in Song

Note:  "The Death of Emmett Till" was recorded by Bob Dylan.  Dylan first sang the song for a Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) benefit in February 1962 and the song appears on the 2010 album, "The Bootleg Series Vol. 9- the Witmark Demos 1962-1964."  Joan Baez covered the song in her 1963 "Joan Baez in Concert" album.

For a scholarly examination of Emmett Till in Song, see Phillip C. Kolin's essay, "Haunting America: Emmett Till in Music and Song" (Southern Cultures
magazine, Fall 2009).

Listen to the "Death of Emmett Till" by Bob Dylan (29-second excerpt)

"The Death of Emmett Till" by Bob Dylan

Twas down in Mississippi
Not so long ago
When a young boy from Chicago Town
Walk in a southern door
This boy's fateful tragedy
We should all remember well
The color of his skin was black
And his name was Emmett Till

Some men they dragged him to a barn
And there they beat him up
They said they had a reason
But I disremember what
They tortured him and did some things
Too evil to repeat
There was screamin' sounds inside the barn
There was laughin' sound out on the street

They dragged his body to a gulch
Amidst a bloodred rain
And they threw him in the waters wide
To cease his screaming pain
The reason that they killed him there
And I'm sure it ain't no lie
He was a blackskin boy
So he was born to die

And so to stop these United States
Of yelling for a trial
Two brothers they confessed that they
Killed poor Emmett Till
But on the jury there were men
Who helped the brother commit this awful crime
And so this trial was a mockery
But nobody seemed to mind

I saw the morning paper
But I could not bear
To see the brothers smiling
On that courthouse stairs
For the jury found them innocent
And the brothers they went free
Whilt Emmett's body floats the foam
Of a Jim Crow southern sea

If you can't speak out against this kind of thing
A crime that's so unjust
Your eyes are filled with deadman's dirt
Your mind is filled with dust
Your arms and legs, they must be in shackles and chains
And your blood it must cease to flow
For you'd let this human race
Sink so God-awful low

This song is just a reminder
To tell my fellow man
That this kind of thing still lives today
In that ghost-robed Klu Klux Klan
But if we all then think alike
If we give all we can give
We'd make this Great land of ours
An even greater place to live.

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