In the Tallahatchie river a whirlpool is filled
With the circling blood of young Emmett Till
This is his tale though known by too few
Hard to believe but shamefully true

Emmett was fourteen when he came down south
With his father’s ring and his Chicago mouth
He was with his cousins after a long days work
They'd bought sweets in the store from a white girl

Emmet was big and not easily scared
He boasted he did whatever he dared
So his cousins asked him to back up his words
By going in to flirt with the white girl

Emmet said he'd been with white girls back home
So with confidence he went into the store alone
When he came out he wolf-whistled goodbye
To prove himself in his cousins’ eyes

A silence fell, Emmett’s smile disappeared
His cousin’s faces, portraits of fear
They knew better than to talk out of turn
They’d grown up in the land where Klan crosses burn

They jumped into a car and sped off down the road
All convinced that they were being followed
They ran into the fields afraid for their lives
But the car from behind just drove on by

Three days past and nothing more they heard
About the following car or the white girl
But on that night with the moon nearly filled
Two men came looking for young Emmett Till

They took him from his bed said get your shoes
Pointing a flashlight around the small room
Three pairs of eyes shone bright in the dark
And watched an old pick up pull out of the yard

These two men were both big and strong
Both old enough to know right from wrong
They drove that truck round dark dirt roads
Looking for the spot only dead men know

They drove for an hour, and an hour more
Until the engine stopped, and slamming both doors
They dragged the boy into the pale moonlight
Teach him a lesson, simple black and white

Emmett Till was naked beaten and dead
When they pulled him from the Tallahatchie River
They say Jesus Christ had thorns in his head
Well Emmett Till was tied in barbed wire

His one eye hung on top of his cheek
Chicago mouth with no tongue and two teeth
The sun shone through the hole in his head
Where they shot him to be sure he was dead

And his face was so swollen and disfigured
That but for the ring on his finger
His own mother could not say still
That the body was that of young Emmett Till

We know that Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam
Took young Emmett Till to a barn and killed him
I read their confession in a magazine
Six months after the soda break jury

These two men are both dead many years
Never excluded or punished by peers
But their hateful actions changed both their lives
With each breath of wind that whistled on by

Emmett's mother has since gone to the grave
Her coffin on his, the boy that she raised
In a mother’s way she blamed herself for his fate
But her anger and guilt never once became hate

She gave speeches to crowds gathered in hope
The times were a changing, chariots swinging low
And it wasn’t just song for the sake of song
People were marching twenty five thousand strong

Love is the force that fear barricades
‘til the goodness in us dwindles and fades
An example of hate will sing and be sung
To remind the many what the few have done

My song ends here but the story goes on
The whirlpool spins round but the river flows on
And all the clear water from mountain and hill
Runs clear past the blood of young Emmett Till


Lyrics submitted by oisinmccole

Emmett Till song meanings
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