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Emmett Louis Till was a 14-year-old African American boy who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955, after being accused of offending a white woman in her family's grocery store. Till was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. During summer vacation in August 1955, he was visiting relatives near Money, Mississippi, in the Mississippi Delta region. The brutality of his murder and the fact that his killers were acquitted drew attention to the long history of violent persecution of African Americans in the United States.
Image Courtesy of the Emmett Till Archives, Florida State University Libraries, Special Collections.
Reckoning with Remembrance & Reconciliation
As a part of TCU's RRI Week 2022, keynote speaker Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr. will reflect on his experiences as the last living witness to his cousin Emmett Till’s abduction that galvanized the movement in 1955.
Emmett Till visited family in Mississippi on August 21, 1955.
Till and friends visited a local store in Money, Mississippi on August 27, 1955.
Allegedly, Till whistled at a married white woman while visiting the store.
The affronted woman's husband and storeowner (Roy Bryant) and half-brother (J.W. Milam) kidnapped Till in the early morning of August 28, 1955.
Till's brutalized and disfigured body was recovered from the Tallahatchie River three days later.
Bryant and Milam were arrested and indicted for murder.
An all-white jury acquitted Bryant and Milam of Till's murder after deliberating for slightly longer than one hour.
Bryant and Milam confessed to murdering Till in an interview following the trial, but could not be retried for murder due to the Fifth Amendment's prohibition against double jeopardy (i.e., being tried for the same crime, twice).
Grades 8-9; Students analyze primary sources and create protest posters highlighting what they learned about injustices in this case.
September 2, 1955
In Chicago, Mamie Till arrives at the Illinois Central Terminal to receive Emmett's casket. She is surrounded by family and photographers who snap her photo collapsing in grief at the sight of the casket. The body is taken to the A. A. Rayner & Sons Funeral Home.
The Jackson [Mississippi] Daily News decries the "brutal, senseless crime" but complains that the NAACP is working "to arouse hatred and fear" by calling Till's murder a lynching.
In Belgium, the newspaper Le Drapeau Rouge (the Red Flag), publishes a brief article entitled: "Racism in the USA: A young black is lynched in Mississippi."
September 3, 1955
Emmett Till's body is taken to Chicago's Roberts Temple Church of God for viewing and funeral services. Emmett's mother decides to have an open casket funeral. Thousands of Chicagoans wait in line to see Emmett's brutally beaten body.
September 15, 1955
Jet magazine, the nationwide black magazine owned by Chicago-based Johnson Publications, publishes photographs of Till's mutilated corpse, shocking and outraging African Americans from coast to coast.
September 17, 1955
The black newspaper The Chicago Defender publishes photographs of Till's corpse.
September 20, 1955
The French daily newspaper Le Monde runs an article reporting that the American public is following the Till case "with passionate attention."
September 26, 1955
In Belgium, two left-wing newspapers publish articles on the acquittal. Le Peuple, the daily Belgian Socialist newspaper, calls the acquittal "a judicial scandal in the United States." Le Drapeau Rouge (the Red Flag) publishes: "Killing a black person isn't a crime in the home of the Yankees: The white killers of young Emmett Till are acquitted!"
In France, L'Aurore newspaper publishes: "The Scandalous Acquittal in Sumner" and the daily newspaper Le Figaro adds: "The Shame of the Sumner Jury."
September 27, 1955
The French daily newspaper Le Monde runs an article: "The Sumner Trial Marks, Perhaps, an Opening of Consciousness."
September 28, 1955
In Germany, the newspaper Freies Volk publishes: "The Life of a Negro Isn't Worth a Whistle."
In France, the French Communist Party newspaper L'Humanité writes: "After the Mockery of Justice in Mississippi: Emotion in Paris."
October 22, 1955
The American Jewish Committee in New York releases a report urging Congress to bolster Federal Civil Rights legislation in light of the Till case. Their report includes quotes from newspapers in six European countries expressing shock and outrage after the Till verdict.