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
“After being kidnapped by JW Milam and Roy Bryant, he was brutally beaten to a pulp. One of the facts that many are not aware of is- prior to being shot in the head, Milam and Bryant ordered Emmett to take off all of his clothes. A 14-YEAR-OLD CHILD. Once they shot Emmett, they tied him down to a gin fan, with barbed wire, and tossed this baby into the Tallahatchie River. Another fact that many don’t know is that when Emmett was first murdered, there was a warrant issued for Carolyn on the grounds of kidnapping. That warrant was never served. The reason? They couldn’t find her at her house. But guess what? She is still alive and can be held judicially responsible for her role in Emmett’s murder. I don’t care how old she is. I don’t care what her health status may be. Put the handcuffs on her and throw away the key. It is time for Carolyn to be indicted!” – 11/2021
“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.
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 identifying 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.
Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America – Mamie Till-Mobley (Author) Christopher Benson (Author) The mother of Emmett Till recounts the story of her life, her son’s tragic death, and the dawn of the civil rights movement–with a foreword by the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. In August 1955, a fourteen-year-old African American, Emmett Till, was visiting family in Mississippi when he was kidnapped from his bed in the middle of the night by two white men and brutally murdered. His crime: allegedly whistling at a white woman in a convenience store. The killers were eventually acquitted. What followed altered the course of this country’s history–and it was all set in motion by the sheer will, determination, and courage of Mamie Till-Mobley, whose actions galvanized the civil rights movement, leaving an indelible mark on our racial consciousness. Death of Innocence is an essential document in the annals of American civil rights history and a painful yet beautiful account of a mother’s ability to transform tragedy into boundless courage and hope. Praise for Death of Innocence “A testament to the power of the indestructible human spirit [that] speaks as eloquently as the diary of Anne Frank.”–The Washington Post Book World “With this important book, [Mamie Till-Mobley] has helped ensure that the story of her son (and her own story) will not soon be forgotten. . . . A riveting account of a tragedy that upended her life and ultimately the Jim Crow system.”–Chicago Tribune “The book will . . . inform or remind people of what a courageous figure for justice [Mamie Till-Mobley] was and how important she and her son were to set the stage for the modern-day civil rights movement.”–The Detroit News “Poignant . . . In his mother’s descriptions, Emmett becomes more than an icon; he becomes a living, breathing youngster–any mother’s child.”–Pittsburgh Post-Gazette “Powerful . . . [Mamie Till-Mobley’s] courage transformed her loss into a moral compass for a nation.”–Black Issues Book Review Robert F. Kennedy Book Award Special Recognition – BlackBoard Nonfiction Book of the Year
“Till’s story of injustice might have been lost to history if his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, hadn’t insisted that the world take notice of her son. “
“Let the people see what they did to my boy.”
“Black Men in America Are Still Killed for Crimes They Didn’t Commit.”
The Untold Story Of Emmett Louis Till (Official Trailer)
ARCHIVIST, EDUCATOR, HISTORIAN, and ARTiST
Dale Shields is a professor of theatre, director, and actor (Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway, and Regional).
The 2017 winner of The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award®, 2017 and 2015 Tony® award nominee for the Excellence in Theatre Education Award, and the winner of the 2017 AUDELCO/"VIV" Special Achievement Award. In 2020 He was also awarded The Actors Fund / Encore Award
On the web, he is the archivist and historian of Iforcolor.org and Black Theatre/African American Voices [Facebook] (theatre, music, and art). He has taught classes and workshops at SUNY Potsdam, Susquehanna University, Denison University, Randolph-Macon College, Macalester College, The College of Wooster, Ohio University, Wayne State University, and the Joseph Papp Public Theatre (New York Shakespeare Festival).
B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees from Ohio University.