Emmett Till

Emmett Till

(July 25th 1941- August 28  1941)

He was born and raised in Chicago. His mother was originally from a small town in the Delta region of Mississippi. The Delta region was a poor rural area in the 1950s. In August 1955, Emmett Till left Chicago to visit some members of his family in Mississippi.

He walked into a local grocery store one day and spoke to a 21 year old married woman called Carolyn Bryant. Carolyn ran the small grocery store. 14 year old Emmett was falsely accused by  Carolyn of whistling and flirting with her. This at the time was unacceptable, black men were not meant to relate with white women in that way in Mississippi. Mississippi was a very racist and segregated state in the 50s, it had a significant number of Klu Klux Klan

A few days after the incident, her husband Roy Bryant and his half brother, J.W Milam, went armed to Emmett’s grand uncles house at night to abduct him. They beat him, mutilated him by gouging out his eyeball, shot him in the head and sunk his body in the Talahatchie River. His body was retrieved 3 days later and was returned to Chicago, his mother insisted on a public funeral with an open casket. This is because she wanted the world to see the cruelty and injustice her son had faced.

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Thousands of people attended his funeral, many journalists published his pictures in the newspapers. This rallied up black support and the sympathy of whites across the United States. In September 1955 Bryant and Milam were acquitted of Emmett’s kidnapping and murder by an all white jury. They publicly admitted to killing Emmett in a magazine interview in 1956. They were attacked and ridiculed by local residents, they had to leave the area. Milam died in 1980 and Bryant in 1994, they showed no remorse for their actions.

The NAACP characterised the incident as a lynching. Lynching of black men was not uncommon in the south in the 50s. Emmett’s death was said to have had a profound effect on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and was one of the reasons why he took on the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This movement was a significant part of putting an end to segregation in the South.

Emmett Till’s body was exhumed in 2004 and properly identified. His original casket is currently on display today at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

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