Today in History: August 28

The two men, both of them adults, wanted the boy dead. They wanted him dead. The boy was 14 years old and a visitor from out of town, a city kid from Chicago.

On a visit to see family in the country, in Money, Mississippi, the boy from Chicago went to the local grocery store one day. He bought bubblegum.

He spoke to the woman behind the counter, who was not a lot older than he was, 21. Perhaps he thanked her, perhaps he said something else. Either way, she did not like the contact. She was white and the boy was black.

Her husband later said that the boy had “whistled” at his wife, so he and his half-brother wanted the boy dead. At 2:30 in the morning, with the young woman alongside to identify the boy, they went to the boy’s uncle’s home and found the boy.

What followed was not a lecture from two men to a boy about how a young man should speak with a woman. No. On this date in 1955, Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam took Emmett Till with them and the boy never returned. Days later, when the body was found in the Tallahatchie River, it was identifiable only by a ring the boy usually wore. The body was identifiable as human only in the minimal sense after what they had done before throwing Emmett Till in the water. They wanted him dead, you see.

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On this date in 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of 250,000 participating in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He spoke of his dreams of a future in which racism in America is dead. The speech:

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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born on this date in 1749. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was born on this date in 1774. Sir John Betjeman was born on this date in 1906. Roger Tory Peterson was born in 1908 on this date. Tasha Tudor was born 101 years ago today. C. Wright Mills was born 100 years ago today. Donald O’Connor was born on this date in 1925.

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David Soul is 73. Lou Piniella is 73. Ron Guidry is 66 today. Rita Dove is 64 today. Daniel Stern is 59. Emma Samms is 56. Shania Twain is 51 today. Jack Black is 47. Sheryl Sandberg is 47. LeAnn Rimes is 34.

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