We Pause to Remember – The Murder of Emmett Till


Emmett Till

What an inspiring weekend we just witnessed – the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. I was proud to see so many venerable groups come together, just as they did on August 28, 1963. The first “March,” was the culmination of many hopes and dreams. Fifty years later, we have made great progress, but there is still much work for all of us to do.

On a more somber note, August 28th holds a painful memory that we should pause to remember – the brutal murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year old African-American boy who was killed for reportedly flirting with a white woman. Young Emmett was a native of Chicago, Illinois who was spending the summer with family and friends in Money, Mississippi.

For those who might be familiar with this tragedy, you will also recall the state of his body when he was sent back to Chicago for burial. When his remains arrived Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, insisted on viewing her son’s body. She would later state “that the stench was so strong, it was noticeable two blocks away. Despite the gut-wrenching site, she made the decision to have an open casket funeral saying “there was just no way I could describe who, or what was in that box. No way. And, I just wanted the world to see.”


Emmett and Mamie

The same venerable organizations that came together to March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom eight years after Emmett’s murder, stood with Mamie Till Mobley in her fight for justice. Indeed Emmett’s brutal murder was a catalyst for the fight for civil rights that was heard throughout the country. In addition to seeking support from various civil rights groups, Emmett’s mother also turned to the government – her government – for help. Tragically, her plea for justice fell on deaf ears. She tried to meet with President Dwight Eisenhower, but he refused. Her pain was further exacerbated when FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover wrote in a memo:

“There has been no allegation made that the victim (Emmett Till) has been subjected to the deprivation of any right or privilege which is secured and protected by the Constitution and the laws of the United States…”

This was truly a dark time in America’s history and the fight for racial and social justice. However, Emmett’s mother refused to harbor any malice in her heart. She spent her life raising awareness of what happened to her son, and she was an eloquent spokesperson for justice until her death in 2003.

As you go about your day tomorrow, please join Brooklyn Legends in remembering Emmett Till.


In Loving Memory

Background on Emmett Till – Wikipedia
The American Experience – http://www.pbs.org
The New York Times – January 7, 2003
Image of Emmett Till – Wikipedia.com
Image of Emmett and his mother – BET.com
Image of Mamie Till Mobley as her son’s remains are brought home – beststarphoto.com
Image of the red rose – smelltheflowersblog.wordpress.com