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TCU Race & Reconciliation Initiative: Emmett Till: Overview

Resources highlighting the life and legacy of Emmett Till in the context of the United States Civil Rights Movement. Includes K-12 educator resources.

 Remembering Emmett Till 

Who Was Emmett Till?

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.

Attend

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.

Wednesday, March 16 @ 6pm

Learn more about this event and watch on Facebook Live.

Read

Timelines

  • 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).

Reproduced from:

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.

Reproduced from:

Watch

The murder of a 14-year-old black boy and the subsequent trial horrified the nation and the world. Emmett Till's death was a spark that helped mobilize the Civil Rights movement.

From PBS: American Experience

Wheeler Parker oral history interview for the Civil Rights History Project conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Chicago, Illinois, 5/23/2011.

From Civil Rights History Project, Library of Congress