The First Spark of the Civil Rights Movement

Introduction

*The murder of Emmett Till is said to be the spark that started the Civil Rights Movement.  The death of the 14-year-old African American enraged the nation.  In this webquest, students will research the racial climate of the 1950s, the circumstances surrounding the murder, and will analyze the trial and pronounced verdict. 

Introduction by Walter Hirsch:

In 1955 a fourteen year old boy named Emmett Till went from Chicago to Mississippi to visit family. While in Mississippi, Till was with some friends at a grocery store and decided to whistle at a pretty white woman. Little did Till know, this was against the Jim Crow laws of the South and he would have to pay for his mistake. On August 28th, 1955, Emmett Till was kidnapped from his bed and forced to leave with JW Milam and Roy Bryant who were the husband and half brother of the white woman at the store. After being kidnapped, Till would be beaten, tortured and murdered before being dumped in the Tallahatchie River. On September 19th 1955, the trial of JW Milam and Roy Bryant would be put on trial and found innocent of killing Emmett Till. Twenty-two years after the murder and trial for Emmett Till, the US Government reopened this case to determine whether or not the trial of Emmett Till was in fact a fair and just trial. JW Milam and Roy Bryant have both since died so there will not be a retrial. Furthermore, this would be a violation of Bryant and Milam’s constitutional right to being protected from double jeopardy. As a result, you and your group have been asked to look into the case to determine whether or not JW Milam and Roy Bryant were guilty of killing Emmett Till and whether or not the trial that they received was fair and without bias.

 

 

Task

**Task:

Students will analyze the racial climate of the 1950s, the events surrounding the murder of Emmett Till, and the verdict handed down in the trial of Till’s accused murderers.  Students will begin by answering the following questions:

 

  1. What were the Jim Crow Laws of the South? (Define and give examples)

  2. Who were the accused killers of Emmett Till?

  3. Was the killing of Emmett Till justified (for a good reason) or necessary (needed; required to be done) ?  Why or Why not?

  4. In your own opinion, do you think Emmett Till understood the culture of the South and how it was different from that in his hometown of Chicago ?  Why or why not?

  5. What other events were taking place during this time in regards to race relations in the 1950’s?  Give events that affected the social and political climate BEFORE and after the murder.

  6. What is Plessy vs. Ferguson?

  7. What is Brown Vs. The Board of Education?  How did this ruling affect Plessy V Ferguson?

  8. How did these events (events from 1-7 above) do you think influence the murder of Emmett Till and his trial?

  9. Was the trial of Emmett Till’s killers fair and without bias? Why or why not?

 

  1. What was the verdict of the trial? Was it the correct verdict? Why or why not?

 

     11. What happened to Carolyn Bryant?  How did she die? What did she say before she  

            died?

 

*I.  Answer these questions on the Google Doc found in OnCampus.  Use information from the Webquest to help you answer the questions.

*II.  After analyzing these questions, you will write a report in which you make a statement as to whether or not the trial of Emmett Till was fair and without bias.  You will also determine if the killers were really guilty of murder as they were accused of doing. Guilt is more than "did they do it".  Should they have been found guilty under the current racial/social climate and laws of the South? Be able to prove your answer.   See the Process section of this Webquest for specific instructions for the report.

Process

Process:

In your quest for answers, you will need to gather information from the following links:

 

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-death-of-emmett-till                       

http://www.biography.com/people/emmett-till-507515 

   http://www.americanhistory.si.edu/brown/history/1-segregated/segregated-america.html

     http://www.emmetttillmurder.com/pictures-from-1955/

http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/plessy-v-ferguson

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/freedomriders/issues/jim-crow-laws

Your statement and verdict must be written in a one page report.  Type report in Google Drive using MLA format.  Be sure to answer all questions given in the task section and incorporate your answers in the report to support your informed opinion.  It is okay if the report is more than one page, but can not be more than two pages.

Your report should have an introduction in which state your verdict, guilty or not guilty, and tell whether the trial was biased or unbiased (Intro will be one or two sentences).

The body of the report will give evidence, specific proof from the Webquest information, for your verdict and findings of whether the trial was biased or unbiased. Use your answers to the questions as your support for the body portion of the report.

In the conclusion, sum up your findings and restate your verdict and finding of the bias or unbiased nature of the trial.  In the conclusion, give your recommendation for a verdict and sentencing of the defendants (if applicable).  

Evaluation

Evaluation:

You will be graded according to the following rubric.   

CATEGORY

4 - Above Standards

3 - Meets Standards

2 - Approaching Standards

1 - Below Standards

Score

Focus 

The introduction clearly expresses your statement and verdict, the body clearly supports the statement and verdict, and the conclusion summarizes the main points of the report.

The statement and verdict are expressed and supported with some ambiguities

The statement and verdict are expressed but are not fully supported

The statement and verdict are expressed and not supported, or are not fully expressed

 

Support for Position

Includes ample support from the answers to the questions and weaves these answers smoothly into a thoughtful report

Includes answers to some of the questions and weaves them into the report

Includes few answers to the questions and lists them in the report

Answers minimal questions and lists them in a report.

 

Evidence and Examples

All of the evidence and examples are specific, relevant and explanations are given that show how each piece of evidence supports the author's position.

Most of the evidence and examples are specific, relevant and explanations are given that show how each piece of evidence supports the author's position.

At least one of the pieces of evidence and examples is relevant and has an explanation that shows how that piece of evidence supports the author's position.

Evidence and examples are NOT relevant AND/OR are not explained.

 

Grammar & Spelling

Author makes no errors in grammar or spelling that distract the reader from the content.

Author makes few errors in grammar and spelling that distract from the reading

Author makes many errors in grammar and spelling that distract from the reading

Author makes excessive errors that make reading difficult

 

Credits

This webquest is written by Angela Smith for middle school students studying the novel Mississippi Trial 1955 by Chris Crowe. This webquest was inspired by a webquest written for college students and created by Walter Hirsch of Arizona State University entitled "Murder of Emmett Till". 

 

Permissions
As stated by Walter Hirsch, "We all benefit by being generous with our work. Permission is granted for others to use and modify this WebQuest for educational, non-commercial purposes as long as the original authorship is credited. The modified WebQuest may be shared only under the same conditions. See the Creative Commons Attribution • Non-Commercial • Share-Alike license for details."

 

This webquest was created in CreateWebquest.