While African-Americans in the South were able to migrate, they did so at a terrible disadvantage in that they didn't have the level of education that would lead to an easier transition and a more prosperous life. When the supply if European immigrants drastically decreased during World War I, northern factory owners turned to African-Americans in the South. World War II caused the next giant surge in the Great Migration North, and the South desperately tried to hang on to their cheap African-American labor force.
The Chicago Defender was founded in 1905, and the newspaper became the voice of African-Americans in the North and South. The publisher was Robert S. Abbott, who saw African-Americans in the South as being merely the possessions of the White Establishment. Abbott printed not only his rage, but the rage felt by African-Americans. By 1919, 2/3's of the Defender's readers lived in the South. The more whites tried to ban the Defender, the more legitimate the newspaper became in the eyes of African-Americans.
The mechanical cotton picker changed the landscape in the U.S., but historically the invention hasn't really registered compared to other developments such as the television. The inventor of record was John Daniel Rust, who was among the countless number of Southerners over the previous decades that had tried to create a machine that separated the cotton seed from the boll without destroying the cotton.
Rust always had an inventive mind, and the mechanical cotton picker became his obsession. Many before had figured out how to get the cotton out of the boll with spinning spindles, but then the problem was how to get the cotton off the spindles. The cotton seemed to obey its own physical laws, and the machines that Rust (and others) created made an absolute mess of the cotton. One night in 1927, Rust remembered that cotton tended to stick to his wet hands (due to the dew); Rust took a nail and wetted it, and cotton stuck to the nail. It was at that point Rust was sure he could be successful.
By 1936 Rust completed his prototype, and the initial response among whites in the South was that the machine should be dumped in the nearest river. By 1940, Rust was desperate and broke, yet he still worked on his machine; Rust went all-in with one more effort to succeed. Rust didn't know that Allis-Chalmers, a large company, was trying to contact Rust, since they had decided that his old patents were feasible.
Rust sold his patents to Allis-Chalmers, and the company hired Rust as a consultant. But when Allis-Chalmers finally manufactured a mechanical cotton picker in 1949, it made so few that the company lost its exclusive rights to Rust's designs. All the while, Harvester was going down the same road, and had started to manufacture mechanical cotton pickers by 1948. By then the machine was seen as the solution to the labor shortage created by the post-WW II surge of the Great Migration North.
Southern whites agreed that their future was with the coming mechanical cotton picker, and Harvester had built a factory in Memphis, which boded well. Harvester built 1000 machines in 1948, priced at $7600 ($76,000+ in 2015 dollars), and was mounted on a tractor . . . and it was tax deductible. 1948 was the year that convinced cotton growers to go mechanical; they had a good cotton crop, but they didn't have nearly enough workers to pick the crop.
Competition for building mechanical cotton pickers started in 1949, and cotton growers in California had the best experience using the machine. However, conditions in the Mississippi Delta were not as manageable compared to California. Pearson built 50 mechanical cotton pickers in 1949, and the company hired Rust to improve their machine so it would work properly in the Delta. Delta planters had a narrow window to pick their cotton, from the instant the crop was mature in late-September to around 20 October, when the rains always came, which amounted to about four weeks.
Demand for the mechanical cotton picker among younger cotton growers was very high, and it was in this agricultural landscape that the competition for dominance among the farm implement companies. Pearson (with Rust), Harvester, and John Deere were all competing against each other to convince cotton growers that their mechanical cotton picker was supreme.
Rust died in 1954, living long enough to see his invention roll off assembly lines. However, his mechanical cotton picker didn't help small cotton growers as he had envisioned. What occurred was that the mechanical cotton picker became a boon to corporate agriculture.
** Emmitt Till postscript: Sheriff Strider's nephew, Jesse, was elected sheriff in nearby Grenada county, and he was the antithesis of his uncle. Jesse helped rid the county of the KKK, and he hired African-American deputies. Jesse even appeared on TV to endorse an African-American candidate for Congress, which turned the election in favor of the candidate . . . slowly, very slowly, some social change was occurring in the American South in the 1950s.