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Rewriting History 

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Tony Adler, my man, a million thanks to you for straightening out me and thousands of other Reader readers on the truth about Emmett Till's murder in your recent review of the Pegasus Players' The State of Mississippi...and the Face of Emmett Till ["A Mother of a Problem," September 19]. Yep, as you state so well: "The simple fact that Mobley [Emmett Till's mother] is telling her own story here ought to put us on our guard, however scrupulous she may actually have been....We have to be suspicious of a telling rendered by someone who lived so long and intimately--and traumatically--with the material.... Consciously or not, Mobley used The State of Mississippi...and the Face of Emmett Till to put her spin on events and settle accounts."

Dude, stop being so politely restrained. Just come right out and call Mobley a lyin' ol' bitch. It is her own fault, after all, that Emmett got mutilated down south, right? Why didn't she teach dat boy how to respeck white folk and stay in his place? What da hell was his li'l project ass doin' in Mississippi anyway? And if he was gonna be down there, why wasn't he doin' somethin' productive, like shinin' shoes or cleanin' outhouses? Tony, my ace boon coon, I fully agree with you that it is patently absurd for Mobley and [David] Barr to even suggest that Emmett was doing anything but lusting after that white gal who accused him of whistling at her. Everyone knows that black males hunger for white female flesh like a pack of starving wolves--hell, I'm gettin' hot fo' a white gal right now jes' thinkin' 'bout it.

I must admit, however, that I did wonder, just for a second, about your mentioning that Emmett's cousin confirmed the defendants' claim that Emmett was indeed whistling at the woman in an attempt to pick her up. Uuhhh, did it occur to you even remotely that just maybe this cousin had been cowed into testifying to whatever the hell the defense wanted him to say in order to save his own ass??!! What kind of witness protection do you really think the state of Mississippi offered to blacks in 1955??? Wait, I apologize...you're right--if Emmett's mammy is a lyin' heifer, why shouldn't I think that Emmett's a lyin' li'l bastard as well? You're right, big boss Tony. I humbly stand corrected.

What this crap clearly amounts to is simple revisionism by Mobley and Barr--a niggerization of history, if you will. As you relate: "Naturally Mobley and Barr depict Emmett's murderers and their legal accomplices as slack-jawed redneck animals. That goes almost without saying." The nerve of them. Don't they realize Quakers, nuns, Cubs fans, space aliens, communists, Wobblies, New Agers, that literally everybody, not just slack-jawed redneck animals, hates niggers? Again, thanks much for revealing the truth to us, Dr. Adler, but please, please, please don't stop. I bet those lyin' bitches Myrlie Evers, Betty Shabazz, and Coretta King all orchestrated some bullshit attempting to improve the sordid reputations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Dr. King. Check it out fo' us, bro', and let us know the real deal.

Kenny Calvin

Near South

Tony Adler replies:

Calvin can call me what he wants, but he shouldn't cast aspersions on the cousins and friends who witnessed what passed between Emmett Till and Carolyn Bryant on August 24, 1955. Those people (represented in the play by a single character) couldn't have been "cowed" into committing perjury at the trial of Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam because they never testified there. As far as I have been able to ascertain from many sources, none of them was called to the stand. What we know of their version of events comes from various interviews conducted far away and after the fact by sympathetic interlocutors. (Try, for example, Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement From the 1950s Through the 1980s. Also, a recent documentary, The Murder of Emmett Till.) The two black southerners who did testify--Willie Reed and Moses Wright--did so truthfully and courageously under protection provided by the NAACP.

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