Emmett Till’s mother declined an offer from the mortician to “touch up” her son’s body, and she made the decision to have an open-casket funeral. “I think everybody needed to know what had happened to Emmett Till,” she said. Mamie’s decision would make her son’s death a touchstone for a generation. At a church on the South Side of Chicago, Emmett Till’s mutilated body would be on display for all to see. Fifty thousand people in Chicago saw Emmett Till’s corpse with their own eyes. When the magazine Jet ran photos of the body, black Americans across the country shuddered.
Learn more about THE MURDER OF EMMETT TILL, including where to watch the documentary: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/till/
In August 1955, a 14-year-old black boy whistled at a white woman in a grocery store in Money, Mississippi. Emmett Till, a teen from Chicago, didn’t understand that he had broken the unwritten laws of the Jim Crow South until three days later, when two white men dragged him from his bed in the dead of night, beat him brutally and then shot him in the head. Although his killers were arrested and charged with murder, they were both acquitted quickly by an all-white, all-male jury. Shortly afterward, the defendants sold their story, including a detailed account of how they murdered Till, to a journalist. The murder and the trial horrified the nation and the world. Till’s death was a spark that helped mobilize the Civil Rights movement. Three months after his body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River, the Montgomery bus boycott began.