Emmett Till- Civil Rights and Influence
Emmett Till (1941-1955)
African American (pictured right) murdered by racists, aged 14.
The crime’s horrific brutality and the acquittal of his killers helped to start the civil rights
movement in America.
For more detail see...
The March on
Washington in the History Highlights section.
Why was he influential?
1. His murder
On August 28, 1955, he was abducted from his great uncle’s home in Mississippi after allegedly
whistling at a white girl, Carolyn Bryant (pictured right), at her family’s grocery store.
His mutilated body was found in a nearby river three days later
His killers were acquitted:
- Roy Bryant (Carloyn Bryant’s husband).
- J. W. Milam (his half- brother)
(pictured right at their trial, Bryant is on the left)
The all white jury took just 67 minutes to make the not guilty verdict, despite Mose
Wright (a black farmer), testifying that he saw the two men kidnap the boy at gunpoint.
Protected by the ‘you can’t be convicted twice for the same crime’ rule, they admitted their
guilt in 1956.
2. The love of a good mother
Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley (pictured right together):
- was determined to publicize the injustice to her son
- told the funeral director not to close the coffin (so that people could see his badly
beaten face, pictured right below)
- never stopped fighting to clear her son’s name.
She would have been delighted that the American Justice Department re-opened the case in 2004, having died the
year before aged 81.
3. Civil rights
50,000 people saw his open coffin before he was buried
His murder had a huge effect on the civil rights campaign, which was
- triggered off by Rosa Parks' , pictured
right below, refusal to give up a bus seat in December 1955 (only months after Emmett's death).
Key quote on
“Emmett was very extraordinary” ,Emmett’s mother
Key quotes on justice and
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, Emmett’s mother.
I wasn’t exactly brave and I wasn’t scared. I just wanted to see justice done, Mose
Wright (on testifying against the white murderers)
If you can't speak out against this kind of thing,
A crime that's so unjust,
Your eyes are filled with deadman's dirt,
Your mind is filled with dust.
(from the American folk singer,Bob Dylan's (pictured right) 1962 song, The Death of Emmett