Emmett Louis Till
by Dale Ricardo Shields
Part I: The Unfortunate Trip
On the morning of August 31, 1955, Robert Hodges, who was fishing at Tallahatchie Lake in Mississippi, found an unknown object floating on the surface ( 23 miles north of Greenwood). Closer and closer, he was terrified that it was a dead body. That was Emmett Till, a 14 years old African-American boy. He was shot above the right ear, a 150-pound cotton gin fan had been tied around his neck with barb wire. The death of Emmett Till had an impact on the Civil Rights Movement battles of racism in the United States of America during the 1950s.
“The murder of Emmett Till was a seminal event in the Civil Rights movement. Myrlie Evers, whose husband, civil rights leader Medgar Evers, who would be assassinated 8 years later in Jackson Mississippi, noted: “The Emmett Till case shook the foundations of Mississippi because it said that even a child was not safe from racism, bigotry, and death.”
“Between 1877 and 1950, more than 4,000 African-Americans were lynched in Southern states – that is, whipped, castrated, tortured, burned alive or strung from the trees by White mobs.”
Back to the morning of August 31st, after finding the body, Hodges ran back to tell his father. When the police showed up at the found body scene, they confirmed that the victim was beaten brutally. One of Emmett Till’s eyes fell off, and the right side of his head was unrecognizably injured. His tongue was edematous and a few teeth were gone. The body was in a decomposing state. Around the victim’s neck, there was a heavy fan wrapped around by wire. In the left ear, there was a bullet hole. The consequence of being soaked in water for almost 72 hours made the body deformed. The only object the police could use to find the victim’s identity was the ring on his left hand “L.T”.
His uncle, Moses Wright (tenent farmer), reported about the disappearance of his 14-year old nephew from Chicago three days ago. Moses explained the words L.T on the ring was an abbreviation of Emmett Till’s father who passed away.
Emmett Louis Till was born on July 25th, 1941 in Chicago, Illinois. He was the only son of Mamie Till, a secretary working for the Airforce. Emmett Till lived in a “colored” middle-class neighborhood.
Everyone who knew Till described him as a responsible and funny person.
On August 19th, 1955, one day before Till went to visit his uncle Wright in Mississippi, his mom gave him the ring of Till’s father (Louis Till), which later became the key to identify the dead body. On the next day, Mrs. Till said goodbye to her son without knowing that was the last time she saw the boy alive.