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City Lights Bookstore posted events
7 hours ago
Gary Carden posted a video

2012 Award Winner for Literature -- Gary Neil Carden

A literature and drama teacher turned storyteller, Gary Neil Carden is an award winning playwright whose tales are informed by mountain life in North Carolin...
10 hours ago
Gary Carden updated their profile
10 hours ago
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Stories of Asheville's homeless

History of Asheville’s homeless: humanity on trialby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: Jim Parton and Kirk Faulkner, two homeless men at A-Hope, where Jim is getting help finding housing and Kirk is making job connections.  Photo, 2017, by Rob Neufeld.“I admire my daddy more than any other human on…See More
Tuesday
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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Writers at Home at Malaprops at Malaprops

March 19, 2017 from 3pm to 5pm
A.K. Benninghofen, Lockie Hunter and Beth Keefauver will offer a free reading at the next installment of the Writers at Home series, presented by UNC Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program (GSWP), at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 19, at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood Street in Asheville. This monthly series of free readings is hosted by GSWP director and novelist Tommy Hays.See More
Sunday
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Saturday
Susan Weinberg posted an event

Reading by Poet Bianca Spriggs at Three Top Room, Plemmons Student Union, App State University

March 30, 2017 from 7:30pm to 8:45pm
A reading by poet, multi-genre artist, and core member of the Affrilachian Poets Bianca Spriggs in the Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series at Appalachian State. Spriggs will also present a craft talk from 12:30-1:45 in the Price Lake Room of the Plemmons Student Union. Free admission.For more info, see the press release http://www.news.appstate.edu/2017/03/06/bianca-spriggs/Parking info is at parking.appstate.edu.…See More
Friday
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Mar 14
Toby Hill posted a blog post

Hester

HESTER      Growing up in Asheville,  N.C. in the 50’s and 60’s seemed, at the time, to be filled with a rhythm of adventure and strange encounters sprinkled with an assortment of particularly interesting and somewhat odd characters. One of those persons who fascinated me as a child was my father’s friend “Hester. “       My dad was about as straight an arrow as anyone could find. He seemed to a preadolescent, somewhat indolent son, frankly boring. Looking back from a perspective of 70 years, I…See More
Mar 11
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

African-American musicians in Asheville

African-American musicians flourished in Asheville neighborhoodsby Rob NeufeldPHOTO CAPTION: The Outcasts, the state’s Battle of the Bands winner in 1979, included: (kneeling l to r) Edward Stout, saxophonist; Darriel Jones, drummer; (seated) Patricia McAfee, vocalist; (standing l to r) Marvin Seabrooks, trombonist; Mike…See More
Mar 11
Tipper posted a blog post

Blind Man's Bluff

According to the Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, the game Blind Man's Bluff is as old as the 16th Century. It was a game I never liked playing as a kid. I was always afraid someone would get hurt-namely me! Its one of those games that makes grown-ups yell things like "Somebodys going to…See More
Mar 9
Mary-Chris Griffin shared Rob Neufeld's discussion on Facebook
Mar 6
Bob Plott replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Hunters and Plott hounds
"Thanks for sharing this Rob--and the book plug too. I have never seen this photo before. I have several others from the 1942 article, but this was a new one. The man on the truck looking down is WWII hero Little George Plott--who I profiled in my…"
Mar 6
Tipper posted a video

I'll Be All Smiles Tonight

old VHS film from 2002, a little distorted by the video conversion process... This song features a high lead by Pap and a harmony underneath. In the key of D...
Mar 5
Tipper posted blog posts
Mar 5
Jan Schochet shared Frank Thompson's event on Facebook
Mar 4

Tyson’s Emmett Till book probes darkness

by Rob Neufeld

EVENT: Timothy Tyson discusses his book, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 6 p.m., Wed., Feb. 15.  828-254-6734.

 

            The headline about the publication of Timothy Tyson’s new book, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” has been: “Accuser recants testimony 60 years later.”

            In 2007, Tyson had contacted Till’s accuser, Carolyn Bryant, and landed the only interview with her since an all-white Mississippi jury had exonerated the lynchers—Roy Bryant, Carolyn’s husband; and J.W. Milam, Roy’s thug-like half-brother.

            Bryant had invited Tyson because she’d just read his first book, “Blood Done Sign My Name,” a memoir about his childhood in Oxford, N.C., and the lynching event through which he’d lived.  Plus, the recording of the trial had just been found, and its transcript released.

            So Bryant’s recantation, withheld by Tyson for timing impact, was big news.

            But there are two other possible headlines, based on Tyson’s work:

            “Why the Till lynching is the most notorious racial incident in history” and: ‘How African-Americans made a successful protest.”

            Tyson illustrates his history with detail and feeling, becoming turgid only when chronicling national trends, and rising to a call for the end of white supremacy.

 

Portrait of a hero

 

            Tyson’s portrayal of Emmett Till’s mom, Mamie Bradley, is legendary.

            As soon as she got the news of Emmett’s death—she was in their hometown, Chicago—she called the press, her only avenue of power.  When Tallahatchie County officials moved to bury Emmett immediately, she stopped that action; and she overruled others by requiring an open casket at Emmett’s funeral.

            Her emotional power came through when she cried to Emmett’s corpse, “My darling, my darling, I know I was on your mind when you died.”

            Emmett had been a protected, happy-go-lucky boy who’d regularly attended church and emulated comic George Sobel.  Emmett’s death, as Tyson reveals in a late chapter, had been horrible, having followed broken bones and mutilations.

            Reporters mobbed Mrs. Bradley when she arrived in Mississippi.  The “Chicago Defender,” an African-American newspaper, reported that Mamie shouted out, “Lord you gave your only son to remedy a condition, but who knows but what the death of my only son might bring an end to lynching.”

 

Exposing complexity

 

            In his effort to end racism, Tyson strives to humanize the villains (except for Milam) and cast the net of accountability wide.

            The interview with Bryant must have greatly impressed him. 

            In her tween years, Carolyn had been best friends with a black neighbor, Barnes Freeman, until Barnes had invited Carolyn to ride on his bike and her aunt Mabel had suddenly panicked at the threat.

            Carolyn’s father had been a prison guard who had refused to whip black prisoners.  After his death, she’d eloped with Roy Bryant and became part of a family who used the n word a lot and made family loyalty the number one ethic.

            Tyson repeatedly shines a light on what he calls a “fallen world” and the way racism corrupts all of America. 

            That includes Chicago, where the segregated African-American ghetto was called “Little Mississippi”; and where, in 1953, white mobs besieged African-Americans who moved into a white neighborhood.

            The depths and ironies of the big story is that Mississippi supremacists used Chicago’s ills in defense of themselves and of their symbols, Milam and Bryant.

            The defense position is a study in twisted logic and conspiracy theory.

            H.C. Strider, the Tallahatchie County sheriff, announced, as the trial was going on, “I’m chasing down some evidence now that the killing might have been planned and plotted by the NAACP.”

            In court, the defense team questioned whether the body pulled out of the river with a fan tied to its neck with barbed wire was actually Emmett, or even black—though, as Tyson, comments, the sheriff sent the body to an African-American funeral home.  Also, the body was wearing the ring Emmett’s father, Louis, had given him.

            (John Edgar Wideman’s new book, “Writing to Save a Life,” poetically and probingly explores the life of Louis Till, who was hanged by the U.S. Army.)

            The aim of the defense strategy was to speak to the jury.  Mamie was branded as an outsider and a traitor to Mississippi.  Emmett, according to exaggerated and false accounts, was accused of threatening Southern white womanhood.

            “The contradiction of a defense team strategizing to introduce a motive for a crime they professed their clients did not commit,” Tyson writes, “provided glaring evidence, if any were needed, that the trial had never been about justice.”

 

Memory and history

 

            In his recreations and deductions, there’s one scenario that Tyson doesn’t shed enough light on—what may have actually happened with Carolyn Bryant in Bryant’s Grocery.  Emmett had gone there with friends, who dared him to ask Carolyn for a date?  I find that preposterous, unless his friends and cousins hated him, which they didn’t.

            Tyson may have felt he didn’t have enough information to get imaginative in a true way, for, after all, fake news and false memories are some of Tyson’s targets. 

            “We must look at the facts squarely,” Tyson proclaims, and he quotes W.E.B. Du Bois: “This country has had its appetite for facts on the Negro question spoiled by sweets.”

            Facts do allow Tyson to bolster legends.  African-American doctor T.R.M. Howard founded the Regional Council of Negro Leadership in Mississippi; and built an armed compound at which witnesses, activists, and reporters found sanctuary. 

            Rev. Moses Wright, from whose house Emmett had been kidnapped, testified at the killers’ trial despite two recent assassinations of African-American trouble-makers.  A photo of him identifying Milam by pointing at him from the witness stand became famous.

            The heroes were effective.  The Emmett Till story became historic and marks the years 1954-55 as one the large convulsions in our country’s progress. 

            In 1954, Brown v. the Board of Education required the integration of public schools.  Milam himself blamed that Supreme Court decision for the murder of Till.  Till’s influence, as Mamie had intended, continues to shape events.

            Rosa Parks decided to refuse to stand on the Montgomery bus four days after she’d heard a speech about Till.  The African-American N.C. A&T students who staged a sit-in at the Greensboro Woolworth’s had been moved by the legacy of Till. 

            Six decades later, Tyson notes, protestors at the trial of the police officer who had killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, shouted, “Say his name!  Emmett Till!”

 

Rob Neufeld writes the weekly book feature for the Sunday Citizen-Times.  He is the author and editor of six books, and the publisher of the website, “The Read on WNC.”   He can be reached at RNeufeld@charter.net and 505-1973.  Follow him @WNC_chronicler.

 

 

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