Magazine article Humanities

Remembering Emmett Till

Magazine article Humanities

Remembering Emmett Till

Article excerpt

ONA HOT AUGUST DAY FIFTY YEARS AGO, fourteen-year-old Emmett Till left his Chicago home to visit relatives in Mississippi. His mother was reluctant to let him go. The day before he was to board the southbound train, Mamie Till gave her son a lecture on how to behave and a ring that once belonged to his father, Louis Till, inscribed with his initials.

Eight days after arriving in Money, Mississippi, Emmett's body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River, a seventyfive-pound, cotton-gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire. As the body was unrecognizable, Emmett's uncle, Mose Wright, identified the corpse from a ring bearing the initials LT. The murder made headlines and sparked outrage around the world.

A new exhibition marking the fiftieth anniversary of Emmett Jill's murder, "Remembering Emmett Till," will open August 15 at the Capps Archives at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi. With support from the Mississippi Humanities Council, the exhibition will display photographs, newspaper articles, letters, legal documents, timelines, and transcripts from oral histories. Later this year, the exhibition will travel to the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi in University, the Greenville Higher Education Center, and the Coahoma County Higher Education Center in Clarksdale.

"This is an important part of history," says Henry Outlaw, program associate in heritage studies at the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University. "Many historians claim Emmett Till's murder and its aftermath initiated the American Civil Rights Movement."

On August 24, 1955, after helping his uncle in the cotton fields, Emmett and some teenagers stopped to buy candy at Bryant's grocery store in Money, a small cotton-growing community in the Mississippi Delta. It is reported that after Emmett purchased some bubble gum, he whistled at Carolyn Bryant, the white store clerk.

Three days later, he was dragged from his bed, beaten, and shot in the head.

Roy Bryant, Carolyn's husband, and his half-brother, J. W. Milam, were tried for the murder. They were acquitted by an all-white, all-male jury, which deliberated for a little over an hour. A juror later boasted that the verdict would have come sooner had the panel not stopped to take a soda-pop break.

The main witness for the prosecution was Till's uncle, Mose Wright. …

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