Emmett Louis Till

Emmett Louis Till*****

by Dale Ricardo Shields


Emmett Louis Till, (born July 25, 1941, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.—died August 28, 1955, Money, Mississippi), African American teenager whose murder catalyzed the emerging civil rights movement. Emmett Till. born July 25, 1941. Chicago, Illinois. died August 28, 1955



The murder of Emmett Till in 1955 sparked a movement that led to America’s Second Reconstruction. The killing of George Floyd nearly one year ago has pushed America toward a third. Floyd’s “cries of ‘I can’t breathe’ united this generation in a collective gasp for justice,

September 6, 1955: Emmett Till’s funeral is held at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago.
It was estimated that 30k-40k people attended the funeral.
Mamie Till declined an offer from the mortician to “touch up” her son’s body, and she made the decision to have an open-casket funeral with a glass-topped casket.
“I think everybody needed to know what had happened to Emmett Till,” Mamie stated.
Photographs of his mutilated corpse circulated around the country, notably appearing in Jet magazine and The Chicago Defender, both Black publications, generating intense public reaction.
According to The Nation and Newsweek, Chicago’s Black community was “awakened as it has not been over any similar act in recent history”.
Time later selected one of the Jet photographs showing Mamie Till over the mutilated body of her dead son, as one of the 100 “most influential images of all time”: “For almost a century, African Americans were lynched with regularity and impunity. Now, thanks to a mother’s determination to expose the barbarousness of the crime, the public could no longer pretend to ignore what they couldn’t see.”

But how far has America actually come since then?


Emmett Louis Till was born in Chicago on July 25, 1941. Emmett was the only child of Louis and Mamie Till.                                                                                                                      He never knew his father, a soldier, who died. 


Bonnie Mettler (Artist)
Emmett Till


Photo Courtesy of Black Kudos

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”.

Ring found on Emmett Till’s body that was given to him by his father, Louis Till

His uncle, Moses Wright (tenant 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.



Emment and Mamie Till

Emmett and Mamie Till

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.

EMMETT–2C–6PM_MAIN 1115 17 KOZ15

The Untold Story Of Emmett Louis Till (Official Trailer)