Knowledge Sessions: Who Was Emmett Till?

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.


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Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal

Edit­or / PR Con­sult­ant at No Bounds
Rishma Dhali­w­al has extens­ive exper­i­ence study­ing and work­ing in the music and media industry. Hav­ing writ­ten a thes­is on how Hip Hop acts as a social move­ment, she has spent years research­ing and con­nect­ing with artists who use the art form as a tool for bring­ing a voice to the voice­less. Cur­rently work­ing in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media know­ledge to I am Hip Hop and oth­er pro­jects by No Bounds.

About Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal
Rishma Dhaliwal has extensive experience studying and working in the music and media industry. Having written a thesis on how Hip Hop acts as a social movement, she has spent years researching and connecting with artists who use the art form as a tool for bringing a voice to the voiceless. Currently working in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media knowledge to I am Hip Hop and other projects by No Bounds.

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