In August 1955, a fourteen-year-old black boy whistled at a white woman in a grocery store in Money, Mississippi. Emmett Till, a teen from Chicago, didn’t understand that he had broken the unwritten laws of the Jim Crow South until three days later, when two white men dragged him from his bed in the dead of night, beat him brutally and then shot him in the head. Although his killers were arrested and charged with murder, they were both acquitted quickly by an all-white, all-male jury. Shortly afterwards, the defendants sold their story, including a detailed account of how they murdered Till, to a journalist. The murder and the trial horrified the nation and the world. Till’s death was a spark that helped mobilize the civil rights movement. Three months after his body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River, the Montgomery bus boycott began
The Murder Of Emmett Till – Documetary in HD
Published on May 4, 2013
Emmett Till was a 14-year old boy who In 1955 was taken from his relatives home, beaten, and then shot in the head for supposedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. Find out how his murder acted as a spark for the Civil Rights Movement.
Emmett Till (1941–1955)
The murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till on August 28, 1955, galvanized the emerging Civil Rights Movement.
Fourteen-year-old Emmett Till was visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi, on August 24, 1955, when he reportedly flirted with a white cashier at a grocery store. Four days later, two white men kidnapped Till, beat him and shot him in the head. The men were tried for murder, but an all-white, male jury acquitted them. Till’s murder and open casket funeral galvanized the emerging Civil Rights Movement.
Emmett Louis Till was born on July 25, 1941, in Chicago, Illinois, the only child of Louis and Mamie Till. Till never knew his father, a private in the United States Army during World War II. Mamie and Louis Till separated in 1942, and three years later, the family received word from the Army that the soldier had been executed for “willful misconduct” while serving in Italy.
Emmett Till’s mother was, by all accounts, an extraordinary woman. Defying the social constraints and discrimination she faced as an African-American woman growing up in the 1920s and ’30s, Mamie Till excelled both academically and professionally. She was only the fourth black student to graduate from suburban Chicago’s predominantly white Argo Community High School, and the first black student to make the school’s “A” Honor Roll. While raising Emmett Till as a single mother, she worked long hours for the Air Force as a clerk in charge of confidential files.
Emmett Till, who went by the nickname Bobo, grew up in a thriving, middle-class black neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. The neighborhood was a haven for black-owned businesses, and the streets he roamed as a child were lined with black-owned insurance companies, pharmacies and beauty salons as well as nightclubs that drew the likes of Duke Ellington and Sarah Vaughan. Those who knew Till best described him as a responsible, funny and infectiously high-spirited child. He was stricken with polio at the age of 5, but managed to make a full recovery, save a slight stutter that remained with him for the rest of his life.
With his mother often working more than 12-hour days, Till took on his full share of domestic responsibilities from a very young age. “Emmett had all the house responsibility,” his mother later recalled. “I mean everything was really on his shoulders, and Emmett took it upon himself. He told me if I would work, and make the money, he would take care of everything else. He cleaned, and he cooked quite a bit. And he even took over the laundry.”
Till attended the all-black McCosh Grammar School. His classmate and childhood pal, Richard Heard, later recalled, “Emmett was a funny guy all the time. He had a suitcase of jokes that he liked to tell. He loved to make people laugh. He was a chubby kid; most of the guys were skinny, but he didn’t let that stand in his way. He made a lot of friends at McCosh.”
In August 1955, Till’s great uncle, Moses Wright, came up from Mississippi to visit the family in Chicago. At the end of his stay, Wright was planning to take Till’s cousin, Wheeler Parker, back to Mississippi with him to visit relatives down South, and when Till, who was just 14 years old at the time, learned of these plans, he begged his mother to let him go along. Initially, Till’s mother was opposed to the idea. She wanted to take a road trip to Omaha, Nebraska, and tried to convince her son to join her with the promise of open-road driving lessons. But Till desperately wanted to spend time with his cousins in Mississippi, and in a fateful decision that would have grave impact on their lives and the course of American history, Till’s mother relented and let him go.
Emmett Till Murder
On August 19, 1955—the day before Till left with his uncle and cousin for Mississippi—Mamie Till gave her son his late father’s signet ring, engraved with the initials “L.T.” The next day she drove her son to the 63rd Street station in Chicago. They kissed goodbye, and Till boarded a southbound train headed for Mississippi. It was the last time they ever saw each other.
Three days after arriving in Money, Mississippi—on August 24, 1955—Emmett Till and a group of teenagers entered Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market to buy refreshments after a long day picking cotton in the hot afternoon sun. What exactly transpired inside the grocery store that afternoon will never be known. Till purchased bubble gum, and some of the kids with him would later report that he either whistled at, flirted with or touched the hand of the store’s white female clerk—and wife of the owner—Carolyn Bryant.
Four days later, at approximately 2:30 a.m. on August 28, 1955, Roy Bryant, Carolyn’s husband, and his half brother J.W. Milam kidnapped Till from Moses Wright’s home. They then beat the teenager brutally, dragged him to the bank of the Tallahatchie River, shot him in the head, tied him with barbed wire to a large metal fan and shoved his mutilated body into the water. Moses Wright reported Till’s disappearance to the local authorities, and three days later, his corpse was pulled out of the river. Till’s face was mutilated beyond recognition, and Wright only managed to positively identify him by the ring on his finger, engraved with his father’s initials—”L.T.”
Till’s body was shipped to Chicago, where his mother opted to have an open-casket funeral with Till’s body on display for five days. Thousands of people came to the Roberts Temple Church of God to see the evidence of this brutal hate crime. Till’s mother said that, despite the enormous pain it caused her to see her son’s dead body on display, she opted for an open-casket funeral in an effort to “let the world see what has happened, because there is no way I could describe this. And I needed somebody to help me tell what it was like.”
“With his body water-soaked and defaced, most people would have kept the casket covered. [His mother] let the body be exposed. More than 100,000 people saw his body lying in that casket here in Chicago. That must have been at that time the largest single civil rights demonstration in American history.” — Jesse Jackson
In the weeks that passed between Till’s burial and the murder and kidnapping trial of Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, two black publications, Jet magazine and the Chicago Defender, published graphic images of Till’s corpse. By the time the trial commenced—on September 19, 1955—Emmett Till’s murder had become a source of outrage and indignation throughout the country. Because blacks and women were barred from serving jury duty, Bryant and Milam were tried before an all-white, all-male jury. In an act of extraordinary bravery, Moses Wright took the stand and identified Bryant and Milam as Till’s kidnappers and killers. At the time, it was almost unheard of for blacks to openly accuse whites in court, and by doing so, Wright put his own life in grave danger.
Despite the overwhelming evidence of the defendants’ guilt and widespread pleas for justice from outside Mississippi, on September 23, the panel of white male jurors acquitted Bryant and Milam of all charges. Their deliberations lasted a mere 67 minutes. Only a few months later, in January 1956, Bryant and Milam admitted to committing the crime. Protected by double jeopardy laws, they told the whole story of how they kidnapped and killed Emmett Till to Look magazine for $4,000.
“J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant died with Emmett Till’s blood on their hands,” Simeon Wright, Emmett Till’s cousin and an eyewitness to his kidnapping (he was with Emmett the night he was kidnapped by Milam and Bryant), later stated. “And it looks like everyone else who was involved is going to do the same. They had a chance to come clean. They will die with Emmett Till’s blood on their hands.”
Impact on Civil Rights
“I thought about Emmett Till, and I couldn’t go back [to the back of the bus].” – Rosa Parks
Coming only one year after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Educationmandated the end of racial segregation in public schools, Emmett Till’s death provided an important catalyst for the American Civil Rights Movement. One hundred days after Till’s murder, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on an Alabama city bus, sparking the yearlong Montgomery Bus Boycott. Nine years later, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing many forms of racial discrimination and segregation. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act, outlawing discriminatory voting practices, was passed.
[Emmett Till's murder was] one of the most brutal and inhuman crimes of the 20th century. — Martin Luther King, Jr.
Though she never stopped feeling the pain of her son’s death, Mamie Till (who died of heart failure in 2003) also recognized that what happened to her son helped open Americans’ eyes to the racial hatred plaguing the country, and in doing so helped spark a massive protest movement for racial equality and justice.
“People really didn’t know that things this horrible could take place,” Mamie Till said in an interview with Devery S. Anderson in December 1996. “And the fact that it happened to a child, that make all the difference in the world.”
The Untold Story of EMMETT LUIS TILL (Documentary 2005)
Why Was Emmett Till Murdered? Biography, Case, Civil Rights, Death, Funeral, History, Trial
Published on Aug 6, 2013
Emmett Louis Till (July 25, 1941 — August 28, 1955) was an African-American boy who was murdered in Mississippi at the age of 14 after reportedly flirting with a white woman. Till was from Chicago, Illinois, visiting his relatives in Money, Mississippi, in the Mississippi Delta region, when he spoke to 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant, the married proprietor of a small grocery store there. Several nights later, Bryant’s husband Roy and his half-brother J. W. Milam arrived at Till’s great-uncle’s house where they took Till, transported him to a barn, beat him and gouged out one of his eyes, before shooting him through the head and disposing of his body in the Tallahatchie River, weighting it with a 70-pound (32 kg) cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire. His body was discovered and retrieved from the river three days later.
Till was returned to Chicago and his mother, who had raised him mostly by herself, insisted on a public funeral service with an open casket to show the world the brutality of the killing. Tens of thousands attended his funeral or viewed his casket and images of his mutilated body were published in black magazines and newspapers, rallying popular black support and white sympathy across the U.S. Intense scrutiny was brought to bear on the condition of black civil rights in Mississippi, with newspapers around the country critical of the state. Although initially local newspapers and law enforcement officials decried the violence against Till and called for justice, they soon began responding to national criticism by defending Mississippians, which eventually transformed into support for the killers.
The trial attracted a vast amount of press attention. Bryant and Milam were acquitted of Till’s kidnapping and murder, but only months later, in a magazine interview, protected against double jeopardy, they admitted to killing him. Till’s murder is noted as a pivotal event motivating the African-American Civil Rights Movement.
Problems identifying Till affected the trial, partially leading to Bryant’s and Milam’s acquittals, and the case was officially reopened by the United States Department of Justice in 2004. As part of the investigation, the body was exhumed and autopsied resulting in a positive identification. He was reburied in a new casket, which is the standard practice in cases of body exhumation. His original casket was donated to the Smithsonian Institution. Events surrounding Emmett Till’s life and death, according to historians, continue to resonate, and almost every story about Mississippi returns to Till, or the region in which he died, in “some spiritual, homing way”.
Emmett Till: A Series of Four Lessons
This unit is a series of four complementary activities that accompany the documentary film The Murder of Emmett Till. They provide a vehicle for discussing this powerful film while also establishing important historical context to better understand its place within American history and for our understanding of the fragility of democracy. Ideally, all lessons should be used, but they can also can be used on their own.
Till in a photograph taken by his mother on Christmas Day 1954, about eight
months before his murder. When the photo ran in the Jackson Daily News
Till and his mother were given “a profound pathos in the flattering photograph”,
which “humanized the Tills”.
|Born||Emmett Louis Till
July 25, 1941
Chicago, Illinois U.S.
|Died||August 28, 1955 (aged 14)
Money, Mississippi U.S.
Cause of death
Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market
There are too many similarities between Emmett Louis Till and Michael Brown Jr. Neither was perfect. Neither was armed. Both were killed because they were Black young men.
August 28, 1955. August 9th, 2014.
We Have not overcome.
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