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“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. “
“The murder of Emmett Till in 1955 sparked a movement that led to America’s Second Reconstruction. The killing of George Floyd has pushed America toward a third. Floyd’s “cries of ‘I can’t breathe’ united this generation in a collective gasp for justice”
On August 24th, 1955, arriving in Mississippi, Emmett Till and his friends went to a White-owned grocery in the small hamlet of Money. Apparently, Till had been familiar with White friends, especially White girls — and the local kids, who could not believe what they heard, dared him to enter the store and flirt with Carolyn Bryant, the white woman who was the owner’s wife. “Some say he “wolf-whistled” at Bryant; others say he grabbed her hand and asked her for a date; still others claim he did nothing more than simply say “bye, baby” to her as he left the store. Whatever Till did, it was apparent to all involved that he had done something that made Carolyn Bryant angry or afraid.” Till and his friends ran away from the store as Mrs. Bryant went to get her gun. Unfortunately for Emmett Till, racial segregation was still a sensitive issue in the Southern States like Mississippi.
According to Mrs. Till’s request, the dead body was moved back to Chicago on September 2nd.
“For the first time seeing her son’s injured face, Ms. Mamie passed out.“
“Sixty years ago Jet magazine published photos of the disfigured and decomposed body of slain 14-year-old African American Emmett Till, rattling communities across the country and reigniting a widespread passion for the Civil Rights Movement. These photos were undeniably important to the dissemination of the story of Till’s murder, but it is the actions of young mother Mamie Till Mobley that pushed her son’s tragic death into the international spotlight.”
After recovering from the shock, she insisted to open the casket during the funeral for the world to see how brutal and unfair the tragedy was.
“All were shocked, some horrified and appalled. Many prayed, scores fainted and practically all, men, women, and children wept.” In their September 15 issue, Jet magazine published an unedited photo of Till’s face as he lay in his coffin.
“Let the people see what they did to my boy!”
Mamie’s famous quote had a powerful impact not only on hundreds of thousands of people at the funeral but also on the civil rights movement soon after: “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby.” It was a simple answer many years after Till’s death from his mother to Joyce Ladner’s question: “Why did you not have the undertaker do some cosmetic work on his face?”. Joyce is an African American civil rights activist, author, and sociologist who was also born in Mississippi in 1943.
“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.
Emmett Till’s Mother Devoted Her Life To Civil Rights
“Mamie Till devoted her life to activism, crossing the country to give speeches in the years after her son’s death. In the wake of Emmett Till’s murder, NAACP membership soared, and Mamie turned her loss into action.
Just months after the crime, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to sit in the back of a bus, and Martin Luther King Jr. called for the Montgomery bus boycott. In many ways, Mamie helped birth the civil rights movement by transforming her grief into a national outrage. Until her death in 2003, Mamie spent the rest of her life fighting for civil rights.”
Mamie Till-Mobley died on January 6, 2003, she was eighty-one.
Following the death of her only child, Emmett Till, she entered Chicago Teachers College in 1956, graduating cum laude and fifth in her class three and a half years later.
In 1973, she earned a master’s degree in administration and supervision at Loyola University.
She was a frequent lecturer throughout the country, recalling the struggle for civil rights and urging her listeners to be the best they could be.
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