On Aug. 27, 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was beaten and shot to death by two White men who threw his mutilated body into the Tallahatchie River attached to a 70-pound weight.
Earlier that summer, Till’s mother Mamie Till had sent the young Chicagoan to the South to visit relatives. Before he left her sight, she gave her son a stern warning, saying, “Be careful. If you have to get down on your knees and bow when a White person goes past, do it willingly.”
Going from a big city to a small country town in Mississippi in the Old South, the young man still had little idea of what she meant.
One day, he and some other boys were talking about life in Chicago. Till took out a picture of a White girl, bragging that she was his girlfriend. So the boys teased, pointing to a White woman, who was the young owner of a nearby store. They dared him to go in and talk to her.
So he did. Upon leaving the store, some say he said, “Bye, baby.” Others claim he whistled at her.
The young man showed no fear and went on about his day.
But a few days later in the middle of the night, a two men stormed into the cabin of Till’s uncle, Mose Wright. One of the men was Roy Bryant, the store owner, the young woman’s husband. They demanded to see the boy.
The two men took Emmett and tortured him all night, gouging out one of his eyes. But according to the men’s recorded confessions, the young man never winced. He never showed fear and kept talking with the tongue of a grown man.
Emmett’s mother demanded an open casket funeral to show the world of the horrific racism in the American South.
The murderers on the other hand, were acquitted on all charges after the all-White jury deliberated for less than an hour, despite the testimonies of other witnesses, including Emmett’s uncle.
The young man’s murder rocked the world and revealed the horror and crime that was being committed against Blacks in America.
Mamie Till-Bradley’s words: “Two months ago I had a nice apartment in Chicago. I had a good job. I had a son. When something happened to the Negroes in the South I said, “That’s their business, not mine.’ Now I know how wrong. I was. The murder of my son has shown me that what happens to any of us, anywhere in the world, had better be the business of us all.”
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