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The Student News Site of Cibola High School

The Golden Word

The Student News Site of Cibola High School

The Golden Word

The Student News Site of Cibola High School

The Golden Word

Who Was Emmett Till?

Elliott Wood
Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till, as seen in “The Civil Rights Movement: An Eyewitness History” by Sanford Wexler, available from the Cibola Library. (323.1 WEX)

Emmett Till was responsible for the start of the Civil Rights Movement. But who was he, and what did he do?

Emmett Till was born on July 25th, 1941 in Chicago to working-class African American parents. In August of 1955, when he was 14, he took a trip to Mississippi to be with relatives. While there, accounts say that he flirted with a white cashier on a dare. Emmett was known to be a jokester, and this behavior was probably not unusual for him. Four days later, Roy Bryant, the husband of the cashier, and J.W. William broke into the house Emmett was staying at and abducted him. They eventually killed him and dropped his body into a river, for it to be found three days later, on August 31st.

The story and subsequent open casket funeral outraged many across the nation. Rosa Parks, famously refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white man, said that she was inspired by the story of Emmett Till. Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till, became a civil rights activist and helped fund civil rights activism across the country.

Another legacy of Emmett Till is the Emmett Till Antilynching Act of 2022, which took over a year after being introduced in the House of Representatives to be signed into law. According to the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress, “[t]his bill makes lynching a federal hate crime offense,” punishable by “a fine, a prison term of up to 30 years, or both…”

While Emmett Till’s story may be a gruesome and tragic one, the story of the change he inspired is one that played a pivotal role in shaping our country today. So, let us remember Emmett Till as an inspiration, the spark that lit the civil rights movement fire. May he rest in peace.


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