More than six decades ago, 14-year old Emmett Till, an African American boy, was killed in Money, Mississippi, at the hands of Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam for allegedly wolf-whistling at Carolyn Bryant, Roy’s 21-year old wife. The men were acquitted of charges by an all-white, all-male jury, only for the men to later confess to the murder. The verdict was reached in a little over an hour, and it would have reportedly taken less time were it not for a soda break.
Till’s mother, Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley, asked for her son’s casket to remain open, “Let the people see what they did to my boy.” At last, his hometown of Chicago is remembering Till’s lynching and converting his childhood home at 6247 S. St. Lawrence Ave into a museum.
Ward Miller, Preservation Chicago’s Executive Director, was proud of the moment and the role the museum can play in remembering this gut-wrenching yet pivotal moment for Black America and the Civil Rights movement.
“We’ve been working toward this honor and Chicago Landmark Designation for many years, recognizing the importance of this home and its associations with the tragic death of Emmett Till,” he said in a statement to CBS Chicago. “Emmett Till’s brutal death was part of the profound ‘spark’ that influenced so many leaders in the efforts towards equality and confronting injustice in America, from Dr. King to Rosa Parks and so many people in between. It was a turning point in the struggle for Civil Rights and equality for all Americans.”
The Mother of the Civil Rights Movement herself was so stirred by the vision of Till’s mutilated corpse that it was the impetus for refusal to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery bus 100 days later: “I thought of Emmett Till, and when the bus driver ordered me to move to the back, I just couldn’t move.”
“The lynching of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old child from Chicago, on a summer trip to visit his relatives in Mississippi, and the brave efforts of his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley that followed, were a call to action,” Miller concluded. “We should never forget the brutality of his death, the lifelong efforts of his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to show the world these injustices, and also her courage to also forgive, but to always remember too.”