Black Communist and the Injustice of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin

Much has been discussed about the relationship of circumstances between Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till in recent months; but, little has been discussed about the role of the Communist Party and Trayvon Martin. From the black communist that I know, they hold the same place as many other black Americans: This is a classic case of injustice promulgated by a flawed system of guaranteed rights. An interesting point about this topic has more to do with Emmett Till and less to do with Trayvon Martin.


Above: View from an open casket

Above: It was Jet Magazine that launched on the scene when it placed an image of the open casket on its cover.

The Communist Party of America is in a vastly different place circa 2013 than say 1950. Black intellectuals and social activist have a number of other forums and groups to use as a sound board for change. In 1950, under the auspices of American conservatism ala McCarthyism, the avenues for American expression were not as open as they are in the 21st century. Hence, thinking about the Till murder, I should not be surprised that the Communist Party, led by an African-American female named Pat Ellis, were the leaders in encouraging Emmett Till’s mother to open the casket at her son’s funeral. Mother Till and the Communist Party wanted the world to witness the extent of racism and hate propagated by American injustice. Thus, the world saw the dismembered body of a 14-year-old black kid who was too young to die just because he whistled at a white woman.

In drafting this post, I have taken notes and gathered primary sources on the Negro plight in America, and their relationship with communism. I have long contemplated writing an essay entitled, I AM A Communist. I thought it would be a fun and very engaging essay on the motives that drove black thinkers to join the Party. As some of you know, W.E.B. Du Bois once noted that it is a strange notion being black in the 20th century.


12 thoughts on “Black Communist and the Injustice of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin

  1. I often wondered about the story behind Mamie Till’s decision to have an open casket funeral for her son; did she make that decision herself? If so, why? Was she talked into it? If so, by whom, and was she comfortable with the idea, or did she have to be convinced (or compelled)? I’m not sure I see a clear connection between this choice and the Communist movement, though; am I missing something?

    I was thinking about Mamie Till after the Sandy Hook massacre. I became aware of another mother’s difficult decision to resist her faith’s traditions (and our societies’ wishes for comfort and “propriety”) to do what she felt was justice for her son. I equated her decision to Mamie Till’s and ruminated that perhaps the rest of us SHOULD be forced to look at the destruction and devastation that our policies and traditions wreak, even – especially – if it makes us sick to have to do it.

  2. The Black Communist Party left an indelible impression on oppressed people during the Jim Crow area, particularly Black America. So it’s no surprise that they were able to convince the mother to have an open casket. Overt oppression will cause anyone to resort to extreme measures. The communist were at the right place, at the right time to influence and persuade the mother.

    Southern Christians during that era were much more passive and conservative in their approach, primarily due to fear or worse death. Before the Civil Rights movement really took firm roots, the Communist Party USA movement were already taking it’s grassroots work to the deep South during the 1920s and 1930s. Many well known Black intellectuals from the Harlem Renaissance were communist. This was merely a confirmation for some.

    W. E. B. Du Bois was an excellent example of always seeking methodologies to rid society of oppression. He accepted communism primarily due to it’s more perceived humane, seemingly fairness to all. Although in later years, he grew increasingly less enthusiastic and disgruntle with the movement.

    On a side note, this make me think about the youngest known execution in the USA. George Junius Stinney, Jr, June 16, 1944. Horrible tragedy in American history.

    • Thanks for sharing asabagne. Very intriguing story and now it’s on my list to purchase Black on Red. From the summary and research I’ve read online, Robert Robinson story is indeed an on told story that needs to be shared.

    • Maybe we touched on this before, but this is clearly falls under the category of “right message, wrong messenger”. The Soviet Union under Stalin was one of the worst practitioners of racial and cultural persecution and genocide in history.

      • I agree a Jon, but I also get why they left. Things were pretty ugly for so long. The Soviets put a lot of energy into propaganda — particularly that aimed at blacks.

  3. Another book to add to my personal library, Opposing Jim Crow. Thanks professor Carson for sharing. I would love to see an online lecture series presented, providing in depth analysis on this subject.

  4. Eddie — that is a grew article. Interesting point on the descendants of those blacks that once migrated and who are still there. I would not want to live in Russia today. I honestly think it is more oppressive towards blacks in the 21st century than during the age of Stalin.

    I once wrote a paper about George Carver’s limited knowledge of Marxism, as well as his lack of interest in their ideology — which differed from black academics; however, he once advised a student, John Sutton, to travel to the Soviet Union to help the Soviets gain a greater understanding of soil conservation; Sutton returned speaking of a glowing world in which the Negro was fully equal from the oppression of racism and poverty.

  5. Professor Carson, I agree. Russia today is not a place I would live. Violence towards immigrants is on the rise and the countries political system is completely corrupt.

    The historical perspectives shared is very interesting. I look forward to purchasing books mention and hopefully further dialogue in the future.

    Thanks again.

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