(NOTE — Devery Anderson’s fascinating notes on the family and major players involved in the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, and of those involved in the trial of his murderers, appear at the end of The Emmett Till Book, by Susan Klopfer.)
Author Devery S. Anderson has announced that his newest book, Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement, is set for publication in August 2015 by the University Press of Mississippi, and features a forward by civil rights icon, Julian Bond.
CIVIL RIGHTS AUTHOR DEVERY ANDERSON TELLS website followers that he first became acquainted with Emmett Till in the fall of 1994, as a student at the University of Utah, after watching the first segment of the PBS documentary series on the Civil Rights Movement, Eyes on the Prize.
“Emmett’s murder and the subsequent acquittal of his killers left me full of questions. What happened to the killers after their acquittal? What happened to Emmett’s mother? Was she alive, or had she died somewhere in obscurity? Why was I not already familiar with this case?” Anderson was soon asking himself.
It was several months later, that Anderson discovered at least one book on the subject in print, “and so I purchased Stephen Whitfield’s A Death in the Delta: The Story of Emmett Till.”‘
BUT THEN, CLENORA HUDSON-WEEMS, professor of English at the University of Missouri-Columbia, soon came to speak at the University of Utah in May 1995. Her lecture was on another topic, yet the school newspaper noted that she was the author of the book,Emmett Till: The Sacrificial Lamb of the Civil Right’s Movement, Anderson tells his followers on his Emmett Till website at http://www.emmetttillmurder.com/.
Anderson attended Hudson-Weems’ lecture, purchased her book and soon was full of questions. “I read both of these books and wanted to learn more. Both were written at a time when research, writing, and a renewed interest in the Till case was in its infancy, and I eventually discovered that they contained many factual errors, but they did whet my appetite for more.”
OVER THE ENSURING YEARS, the Utah resident found that this case consumed him “… in ways I could not quite explain.”
In 1996, while still a student at the University of Utah, Anderson took a class on racism. Students were given a major assignment, due at the end of the quarter, “that we would each present to the class. I decided that I would put together a scrapbook on the Emmett Till case and include an original interview with Mamie Till-Mobley, Emmett’s mother.”
Surprisingly, Anderson found it was not difficult to locate Till-Mobley in the Chicago telephone directory and he wrote her a letter and arranged a time for a telephone interview. Their two-hour conversation took place on December 3, 1996 and was followed by “dozens” more, over the next six years up until a month before her January 2003 death.
Anderson’s fact-filled website allows him a way to contribute to the spread of knowledge about the Emmett Till murder. The author researched and wrote his new book between 2004 and 2014; he lives in Salt Lake City, and is the father of three children, Amanda, Tyler, and Jordan. Anderson holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Utah.
“The manuscript is balanced, clearly organized, exhaustively researched, and well written. The narrative flows logically and will hold the attention of readers who are otherwise unfamiliar with the case. Right now, and probably for decades to come, it will be the definitive work on this subject. The manuscript will not only be of interest to a general readership but historians in such fields as civil rights history, the history of the South, and legal history. It offers much that is entirely new to our understanding of this topic and/or sheds an original light on old questions. This book will deserve a place in any good library.”
—David T. Beito, co,author, Black Maverick: T.R.M. Howard’s Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power
“Much has been written about the Till case in the past decade, but what has been missing is a definitive history of the case. This book provides that definitive history. The author gives a thorough account of the case from almost every angle. I am very familiar with the scholarship on Emmett Till, and the author has left no stone unturned. …A reader coming to the case for the first time will get the best account we have of the case; scholars familiar with it will learn new details from new sources, and will be persuaded by how well the author settles long debated controversies about what happened and when. The author knows where the historical record is murky or contradictory, and he never rushes to judgment. When he does settle a controversy, he marshals the requisite evidence. When he is not able to settle a controversy, he presents the contradictory evidence and leaves it unresolved. Anyone interested in this case will find this book a valuable guide to the full story of Emmett Till.”
—Christopher Metress, ed., The Lynching of Emmett Till: A Documentary Narrative
ONE FINAL NOTE: I am really looking forward to reading this new book. From time to time I have been in contact with Devery throughout his research process. I know that he has traveled to Europe and elsewhere in search of latest information on this civil rights crime that helped spark the modern civil rights movement. In the future, I will ask him to answer some of my questions, and to tell us more about the book. sk