Tim Tyson | Quail Ridge Books | Page: Readings & Signings | Indy Week
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Tim Tyson 

When: Fri., Feb. 17, 7 p.m. 2017

The murder of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till in August 1955, the subsequent publication, on his mother's insistence, of the horrific postmortem photograph of his battered face, and the not-guilty verdict rendered upon the two accused of the lynching helped set the stage for the civil rights movement of the next decade. Pivotal to the story is the notion that Till, a Chicagoan visiting relatives in the unfamiliar South, whistled at a white woman, but in court the woman went further, suggesting that Till physically menaced her. In the newest book by Timothy Tyson, author of the celebrated Blood Done Sign My Name, the truth about those allegations is revealed through the story of Carolyn Bryant Donham, who was twenty-one and working at a country store when her one-minute encounter with Till left a permanent mark on her life as well as on the trajectory of U.S. history. In excavating her story, Tyson reveals that Donham eventually recanted her basest allegations and could not recall the other details, including the whistling part (apparently Till spoke with a lisp, which could have accounted for it). The killings that capture the American imagination and point a finger at the nation's very soul, like Till's, like Kitty Genovese's, have long been rendered as myth; authors like Tyson perform a valuable service in transforming these stories back into history. —David Klein

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