THE DELTA 337 a small minority of whites, such as Hodding Carter of Greenville, castigated them creating a climate of fear, hatred, and violence in Mississippi. With the forces of segregation poised to stop any form of African American advancement, racial violence rocked the Delta in the mid-1950s. George Lee, an African American minister from Belzoni, was a prime enemy of the Humphreys County chapter of the Citizens’Council. Lee, like Howard, was a strong proponent of African American voting. While driving home on a May Saturday night, Lee was shot to death. Gus Courts, who had worked with George Lee to promote African American voting, founded the local chapter of the NAACP. He did not back down from the threats of segregationists. Courts lost his Belzoni grocery store when he refused to take his name off the county’s voting roster. A white man shot Courts but did not kill him. Wounded in the arm, Courts left Belzoni upon his discharge from the hospital. He, like so many African Americans from the Delta, migrated north to Chicago. The most harrowing act of violence came on August 28, 1955. A fourteen-year-old boy from Chicago named Emmett Till came to the Delta that summer to visit his great-uncle and cousins. One day, Till, his cousins, and some friends were standing outside Bryant’s Grocery Store in Money. Accounts differ as to what took place when Till entered and exited Bryant’s store. Carolyn Bryant, the young wife of store owner Roy Bryant, claimed that Till jerked her hand and asked her out on a date. According to Bryant, Till then tried to grab her waist before leaving the store and whistling at her. One of Till’s cousins witnessed the event and said that Till had been on his best behavior, paid for his candy, and left the store. In the early morning of August 28, Bryant’s husband and his brother-in-law J. E. Milam went to the home of Mose Wright, Till’s great-uncle. Around 2 a.m., they knocked on the door and asked for the boy who had caused trouble at the store. Wright pleaded for the pair not to kill Till. After kidnapping Emmett Till and driving him more than seventy miles in the dark Delta night, Milam fired a shot into Till’s head. He and Bryant then tied Till to a cotton gin fan before dumping the boy’s body into the Tallahatchie River. A few days after the murder, two boys fishing off the banks of the river discovered the missing boy’s body, which was identified by Mamie Till, Emmett’s mother. The trial of Milam and Bryant took place in Sumner, a town in Tallahatchie County where the prosecution stood little chance of succeeding. The NAACP and the African American press publicized this case as the most heinous example of a violent, racist society in Mississippi. Local whites raised money for the legal defense of Milam and Bryant. After slightly more than an hour of deliberation, the jury found Bryant and Milam not guilty. The acquittal left deep scars on the Delta. For African Americans, this injustice was seen as another in a long train of abuses. Whites who had rallied behind Milam and Bryant wanted the case to be forgotten, particularly after the two killers confessed to these crimes in a 1956 Look magazine interview. To the rest of the country and the world, the murder of Emmett Till was further proof that Mississippi needed to change. Under the leadership of Mississippi NAACP president Aaron Henry, Clarksdale became an important site for regional civil rights activism. Henry, a veteran of World War II, owned his own pharmacy in Clarksdale and pushed for black voter registration throughout Coahoma County. Clarksdale beauty shop owner Vera Pigee served as the statewide director of the NAACPYouth Councils and was the branch secretary in Clarksdale. The Youth Councils’ voter registration drive in 1961 led to the registration of a hundred new voters in the county. Amzie Moore of Cleveland led the local NAACP during the 1950s. A veteran and businessman, Moore became an important contact person for outside activists and groups who came to Mississippi in the 1960s. The Civil Rights Movement in the Delta soon gave rise to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Bob Moses of SNCC came to the Delta in 1960, but he believed that the southwest Mississippi town of McComb appeared to be the best spot for the SNCC’s first grassroots campaign in the state. Although their voter registration efforts yielded few concrete gains, young activists, mostly connected to the SNCC, began to pour into Mississippi in 1961 and 1962. Many of these civil rights workers came to Mississippi as part of the 1961 Freedom Rides. In 1962, several civil rights groups including SNCC, NAACP, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) coalesced to form the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO). The COFO ultimately fell apart in 1965, but the coalition’s work from 1962 to 1964 represented some of the most creative and thoughtful organizational cooperation in the history of the movement. Starting in 1962, young SNCC activists launched a massive assault on voter discrimination in the Delta. Sam The trial of Milam and Bryant took place in Sumner, a town in Tallahatchie County where the prosecution stood little chance of succeeding.