Do you know the story of Emmett Till?
On August 24, 1955 in Money, Mississippi, a fourteen-year-old boy from Chicago whistled at a white woman, Carolyn Bryant. Four days later, Till was brutally murdered by Bryant’s husband and his half-brother. When his tortured body was found days after, Till’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, arranged to have his body returned to Chicago. She insisted on an open casket ceremony to make clear to the world what had been done to her son. Although the two men were tried for murder, the all-white jury acquitted them.
The story of Emmett Till captured headlines across the nation. The heartbreaking and horrifying images of Till’s mangled body and his mother’s grief evoked strong emotions. Mamie Till Mobley’s decision to so publicly denounce the violence of her son’s death and his killer’s acquittal broke open a national debate on racial injustice.
Sixty-five years later we are still debating the truth of racial injustice. In recent months, protests across the nation have condemned the killings of and lack of justice for Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and too many others. In Wayland, a group has been gathering every Sunday at 12:30 p.m. on the corners of Routes 20 and 27 since May 31. Led by the Wayland Community for Social Justice with support from First Parish in Wayland, these weekly standouts remind participants and those driving by that we still need to address racial injustice and its violent consequences.
At 11:45 a.m. on Friday, August 28, a special standout at the corners of Routes 20 and 27 will commemorate Emmett Louis Till. We will hold a moment of silence at noon and say the names of lives lost to violence. Participants are encouraged to wear black and white attire and to bring signs with names of black lives to remember. Our local event is part of a nationwide call by the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation. Wherever you may be at that time, please take a moment to remember Till and the names of all those who have lost their lives to hate, racism, and violence. To learn more about Till or local efforts to stand in support of black lives, visit the Facebook page of Wayland Community for Social Justice or First Parish in Wayland (uuwayland.org).
Rebecca Smoler, Wayland Community for Social Justice
Rev. Dr. Stephanie May, First Parish in Wayland
LEARN MORE here:
- https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/biography-emmett-till/ – Who Was Emmett Till? American Experience – PBS
- https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4818586 – ‘Emmett Till’: A Poem of Sorrow, and Hope – NPR on A Wreath For Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson (children’s book)
- https://nmaahc.si.edu/blog-post/emmett-tills-death-inspired-movement – National Museum of African American History & Culture – “Emmett Till’s Death Inspired a Movement”