The story of Emmett Till resonates among the lives of Americans as the start of the Civil Rights Movement. Emmett Louis Till was born on July 25, 1941 in Chicago, Illinois and was murdered at the age of 14 on August 28, 1955. The reason for his death: reportedly whistling at a white woman. The main suspects were acquitted in only 67 minutes by an all white jury, which outraged the people of America and Europe.
To illustrate how brutal and cruel the murder of her son was, Mamie Till-Mosely held a public funeral service with an open casket. Buried in Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois, Till’s body was exhumed for autopsy when the murder case was reopened in May of 2004. Since his body was reburied in a new casket, the Till family donated the original casket to the Smithsonian Institution.
Who was Emmett Till?
Emmett Louis “Bobo” Till, Born on July 25, 1941 in Chicago’s Cook County Hospital to Louis and Mamie Till. At the age of 14, Emmett traveled to visit relatives at the home of Mose Wright in Money Mississippi on August 21, 1955. After going to Bryant’s Grocery and Meat market (owned by a white couple Roy and Carolyn Bryant) for refreshments, Emmett purchases bubblegum and was heard by the kids who were there with him, whistle at Carolyn Bryant. On August 28, 1955, at about 2:30 a.m., Roy Bryant, Carolyn’s husband, and his half brother J. W. Milam, kidnap Emmett Till from Mose Wright’s home. They brutally beat him, took him to the edge of the Tallahatchie River, shot him in the head, fastened a large metal fan used for ginning cotton to his neck with barbed wire and pushed his body into the river. They were arrested on Aug 29 and held in jail without bond on kidnapping charges. Just 3 days after the kidnapping Emmett’s badly decomposed body was pulled for the river and identified only by the ring that he was wearing.
In summary, Emmett’s lynching, brutal murder, his open casket funeral, the published photos of his corpse in Jet and local newspapers, the acquittal of the murderers who later confessed, shocked and outraged people across the country and even the world. Although, you won’t find Emmett Till’s name and story in the timeline of American History, it represents one of the most horrific inhumane injustices committed against an innocent young person in this country. It also represents the spark that ignited the civil rights movement and an end to the racist Jim Crow laws, lynching and other injustices committed against African Americans across the country.
The Importance of remembering EMMETT TILL?
Why: Without having knowledge of important historical moments of the past …we are subject to have history repeat itself. It may not resemble the same type of injustice or the form of lynching that Emmett experienced but “lynching and injustice” in the form of hopelessness, lack of adequate education, poverty, bad health, obesity, joblessness, early incarceration of youth, lack of civic and political engagement and so many other forms of disenfranchisement.
In the words of Mamie Till Mobley…
“We cannot afford the luxury of self pity. Our top priority now is to get on with the building process. My personal peace has come through helping boys and girls reach beyond the ordinary and strive for the extraordinary. We must teach our children to weather the hurricanes of life, pick up the pieces, and rebuild. We must impress upon our children that even when troubles rise to seven-point- one on life’s Richter scale, they must be anchored so deeply that, though they sway, they will not topple”
Mamie Till Mobley mother of Emmett Louis Till This quote is taken from her speech given at the dedication of the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama on November 5, 1989.