How would a 76-year-old Till view America in 2017?
Emmett Till would be 76 years old in 2017.
But in a year that has seen White nationalists riot in Charlottesville, a bigoted president discriminate against communities of color and the demonization of Black activists calling for an end to state sanctioned violence, the world, compared to the year Emmett was killed, is more of the same.
Emmett was kidnapped and murdered on August 28, 1955 when Carolyn Bryant claimed the then 14-year-old Chicago native whistled at her in a Money, Mississippi grocery store. Bryant’s husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother J.W. Milam, were acquitted by an all-White jury for the brutal murder.
The brothers later confessed to the crime in an interview with Look magazine. Earlier this year, Bryant admitted that she lied about her interaction with Emmett, finally acknowledging that her false statement led to the child’s death.
Emmett’s killing is considered a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement after his mother, Mamie Till Mobley, insisted on an open casket during his funeral. The images of Emmett’s beaten and bloated body drove home the brutality used against Black in the south.
And 62 years later, we wonder — what would Till and Mamie Mobley think if they saw the images of the White supremacists descending on Charlottesville? Or a commander-in-chief who feeds to his base of racist White nationalists? It’s not easy to think of Emmett’s innocent life, stolen away in an act of unthinkable racism. But in a political climate that pushes the same 1950s rhetoric that got Emmett killed, it’s necessary that we remember his life and what his death stands for.
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