Emmett Louis Till: Born July 25, 1941 – Homegoing, August 28, 1955

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Emmett Louis Till

Emmett Louis Till was a 14 year old boy who lived in a middle-class neighborhood back in 1955.  According to his mother, Mamie Till, he was “ nicknamed Bobo [and] was born at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. The boy was the apple of his mother and grandmother’s eyes. Aside from a bout with polio at age five, after which Emmett would speak with a mild stutter, he was a healthy and happy boy.”

“In 1955 Mamie decided to take a long-awaited vacation to Nebraska to visit relatives. She wanted her son to go with her. But Emmett was set on joining his cousins and spending the end of the summer in Mississippi. When she put her son on a Southbound train, it was the last time she would see him alive.”

In the summer of that year, while Emmett was visiting relatives at Money, Mississippi he was accused of “whistling” at a woman named Carolyn Bryant at a grocery store. Emmett was there with a group of his relatives and friends, all teens and tweens, to buy snacks. Four days later, Carolyn’s husband Roy Bryant and Roy’s brother, J.W. Milam kidnapped Emmett from his grand-uncle, Moses Wright’s home where Emmett had been staying with his family.

 

The white men, which likely included others, then brutally tortured Emmett.  These child molesters  terrorized Emmett by beating him, shooting Emmett  in the back of his head, gouged out his eyes, and then shoved his mutilated body in the bottom of Tallahatchie River. Three days later, his body was found in the river. Emmett’s  face was so maimed and decomposed, that the only way he was properly identified was by the ring he wore on his finger.

Emmett’s body was later shipped to Chicago for his funeral. His mother wanted to have an open-casket funeral with her son’s body on display for five days. Despite dealing with great pain and the suffering that a mother would endure, Emmett’s mother said that she wanted, “ 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.” Thousands of people came to see his body, as the result of a brutal hate crime. His casket is now on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

The story of Emmett Till should be remembered. He was not merely a young boy who suffered at the hands of white supremacy and endured unspeakable pain, but he was also stripped of his life.  His  last moments of being beaten, molested and tortured by two vicious white men, who faced no repercussions for their actions is a national disgrace. This is made all the worse since the white woman who first accused Emmett Till, Carolyn Bryant, later admitted she had made up this, was not and to this day, though she is still alive, still has not been punished for her actions. However, the world shall know Emmett Till’s name, and remember him.  His memory and legacy should be taught to the youth so that his story will not be repeated.

Sources:

1) https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/emmett-biography-mamie-till-mobley/.

2) https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/us/emmett-till-lynching-carolyn-bryant-donham.html

3) https://www.democracynow.org/2005/6/15/the_untold_story_of_emmett_louis