Bob Dylan, “The death of Emmett Till”


’Twas down in Mississippi not so long ago / When a young boy from Chicago town stepped through a Southern door / This boy’s dreadful tragedy I can still remember well / The color of his skin was black and his name was Emmett Till

Some men they dragged him to a barn and there they beat him up / They said they had a reason, but I can’t remember what / They tortured him and did some things too evil to repeat / There were screaming sounds inside the barn, there was laughing sounds out on the street

Then they rolled his body down a gulf amidst a bloody red rain / And they threw him in the waters wide to cease his screaming pain / The reason that they killed him there, and I’m sure it ain’t no lie / Was just for the fun of killin’ him and to watch him slowly die

And then to stop the United States of yelling for a trial / Two brothers they confessed that they had killed poor Emmett Till / But on the jury there were men who helped the brothers commit this awful crime / And so this trial was a mockery, but nobody seemed to mind

I saw the morning papers but I could not bear to see / The smiling brothers walkin’ down the courthouse stairs / For the jury found them innocent and the brothers they went free / While Emmett’s body floats the foam of a Jim Crow southern sea

If you can’t speak out against this kind of thing, a crime that’s so unjust / Your eyes are filled with dead men’s dirt, and your mind is filled with dust / Your arms and legs they must be in shackles and chains, and your blood it must refuse to flow / For you let this human race fall down so God-awful low!

This song is just a reminder to remind your fellow man / That this kind of thing still lives today in that ghost-robed Ku Klux Klan / But if all of us folks that thinks alike, if we gave all we could give / We could make this great land of ours a greater place to live

[By Bob Dylan © Warner Bros. / Special Rider Music, 1963]

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