Professor Elliott J. Gorn will tell the story of Emmett Till at the Firkin Crane Theatre on Saturday afternoon 3rd August at 3pm.
Let the People See.
14 year old Emmett Till from Chicago visited some of his family in Mississippi in August 1955.
He allegedly whistled at a white woman, Carolyn Bryant who was working behind the counter of a country store in Money, Mississippi on 24th August. Emmett was kidnapped by Mrs Bryant’s husband Roy and half brother J.W. “Big” Milam a few days later. They beat him and then shot him.
Emmett’s tortured body was found in the Taallahatchie River on Wednesday August 31st, with a cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire.
Instead of quietly burying the remains, Emmett’s mother Mamie Till-Mobley decided to have an open casket at the funeral in Chicago.
She proclaimed “Let the people see what they did to my boy.”
A hundred thousand people did see his face as they filed past the casket and millions saw the photos in the African-American press.
The burial aroused a storm of wider media interest and the story was featured extensively all over America. Yet just a month later the all-white jury found the killers of Emmett Till not guilty of murder in spite of strong evidence presented.
African Americans were shocked and horrified while many white Americans were forced to question the systematic racism which infected American society. The lynching of Emmett Till became a defining moment for many African Americans from Muhammad Ali to Rosa Parks. On 1st December 1955, Parks refused to give up her seat at the front of the bus in Montgomery. A few days earlier she had attended a meeting where the Emmett Till case was discussed.
The Till murder sparked a generation to create the greatest mass mobilisation of the twentieth- century in the American civil rights movement.
The lynching of young Emmet Till forces everyone to look hard at the realities of racism today as racially motivated violence continues despite the haunting image of young Till and the determination of his brave mother Mamie to let the people see!
Author Elliott J. Gorn will talk of the short life and death of Emmett Till at the Firkin Crane Theatre on Saturday 3rd August at 3pm.
Elliott’s book, The Story of Emmett Till……Let the People See is published by Oxford University Press 2018. He is also the author of Mother Jones – The Most Dangerous Woman in America and will speak about Mother Jones on Wednesday evening at 8pm at the Firkin Crane Theatre. All welcome.