Friday, September 24, 2010

Literature in Teaching: Getting Away With Murder by Chris Crowe

The week that Parent Teacher Conferences falls on always seems to be a busy one.  This one was no different.  It's been a great week, but I'm now home sick with one of the worst sore throats I can recall.  I'm glad that I asked for a sub yesterday while I was at school, regardless of the second guessing I did once my voice warmed up by mid-day.  Today I can barely whisper, and even that has me wincing a little.  After sucking down an entire pack of Halls cough drops yesterday, I doubt that would have gotten me through to teach today.

Thankfully, my mind is clear and my fingers can still fly across the keyboard.  This is good, as I can share more about our first meeting for our district's book club "Teaching Through Literature Discussions."  I had the chance to meet Megan from Po(sey) Sessions and Allison from So Many Books So Little Time, who are both book bloggers.  If I missed others, my apologies!  I was rushing in right as it started, having been held up by last minute lesson plans I was writing up for my substitute teacher for today.  Once I left work, I really didn't want to have to return, so that put me in a little bit of a time crunch.

For our first discussion, we read Chris Crowe's non-fiction publication about the murder of young Emmett Till, Getting Away With Murder.  I actually had the chance to take a Young Adult Literature course from Chris Crowe when I was an undergraduate.  His class was rigorous, but exciting, and his teaching style was uniquely straight-forward and engaging.  I remember that we had to read stacks of books over the course of the term, which still adorn my bookshelves.  Thankfully, that class gave me a great foundation for teaching and recommending books to my own students.  At the time, Crowe was most likely just finishing his research on the murder of Emmett Till and finishing up with his first book.  I do recall Crowe sharing Emmett's story with us, as well as more information about his research and trip to Missisippi to learn more about the story.  He has gone on to write both his non-fiction account of Till's story, as well as Mississippi Trial, 1955.

For anyone who might be unfamiliar with the story, young Emmett Till was dragged from his uncle's home in Money, Mississippi on the night of August 28, 1955 and brutally lynched for whistling at a white woman at a local store.  Emmett was only 14 years old at the time and unfamiliar with the racial mores of the deep south, having come from Chicago, where Emmett had experienced much more freedom.  Both men accused of killing Emmett were later acquitted in court by an all-white jury in Greenwood, Mississippi.  They later went on in January of 1956 to admit to Look magazine in an article, "The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi" to the murder of Emmett.

Roy Bryant & J. W. Milam in court.
The story is appalling and hard to imagine being a reality.  The details, information, and pictures in Crowe's book are telling, and his writing throughout the book is very engaging and easy to read.  Although the story is hard to take, the emotions it stirs and the impact it had in flaming the Civil Right's Movement into action are undeniable.  I highly recommend this small, yet informative book for all readers as a reminder of the direction that fears can take any person, community, or society.

For more information on Emmett Till, see:


  1. I had a good time discussing with everyone. Thanks for mentioning me too!

    I cannot wait for next time.

  2. It was great to meet you and to hear Chris Crowe speak! Feel better!

  3. It really was a horrible crime but certainly only one in decades of whites murdering blacks with impunity in the south. I'm going to have to pick this one--it's a story that's intrigued me for years.

  4. Yikes. So what happened after the magazine article was published?

  5. Wow, sounds like a really important and interesting book. It's going on my wish list. And yes, what happened after the article was published??

  6. Megan & Alison--Thanks guys! It was great meeting you both.

    Lisa--Yes, it's a great story. I had a hard time grasping how anyone could do this to a young boy, which is why the story is so intriguing. Hate knows no bounds. So sad. A story we all need to know about.

    Heidenkind & Amy--Sadly, NOTHING happened to these guys. They dug up his grave several years ago to see if they had enough evidence to reopen the trial, but found that although the autopsy showed it was Emmett and that he was brutally tortured and murdered, that they just didn't have enough evidence to reopen the case. Sad. His coffin is now going to the Smithsonian as part of a Civil Right's display. Both men who were part of the trial are now dead, and the woman he wolf whistled at divorced her husband and refuses to speak with anyone about the crime.

  7. A bit late to the discussion :), but I thought I would share a reading guide a created a few years ago when I "taught" Emmett Till to my 7th graders.