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The Properties of ViolenceClaims to Ownership in Representations of Lynching$
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Sandy Alexandre

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9781617036651

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781617036651.001.0001

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. Mississippi Goddam

. Mississippi Goddam

Emmett Till’s Photographs and Geographic Identity

(p.146) 5. Mississippi Goddam
The Properties of Violence

Sandy Alexandre

University Press of Mississippi

In August 1955, fourteen-year-old Emmett Till, an African American, was lynched to death by two white men in Mississippi after he wolf whistled at a white woman. The story of Till’s lynching, along with the gruesome photographs of his terribly bloated corpse and mangled face, attracted national attention. This chapter examines the story of Emmett Till and how his murder subverts the whole dynamic of lynching and lynching photography. It analyzes the dynamics of lynching by focusing on Till’s lynched black body that was displayed publicly by blacks against the wishes of the white lynchers. It argues that the images of a propertied and domesticated Till show him to be part of a community, in stark contrast to the usual lynching photo. It also considers how traumatic events are projected onto the landscape, whereby human deeds are metaphorically blended into the very geography of the land. Finally, it comments on how scholars ignore the life Till lived in Chicago before he perished in Mississippi.

Keywords:   lynching, Emmett Till, Mississippi, photographs, murder, black body, blacks, images, Chicago, geography

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