Emmet Till and the birth of the Civil Rights movement in America

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I have been aware of the civil rights movement in America and the role of Martin Luther King as the co-ordinator first locally and then nationally. How Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white person which led to a bus boycott that sparked the nationwide movement. However, until recently, I was unaware of the episode that proceeded this, that caused Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and others to say enough is enough.

In 1955 just a couple of years before I was born a young teenager, Emmet Till, moved from Chicago to Mississippi in the south of America. Coming from the North he was unaware of the tensions between blacks and whites in the south. He reportedly whistled at a white lady and said, “bye baby”. This was enough for him to be beaten, shot and his weighted down dead body thrown into the river.

Emmet’s mother was a Christian who refused to allow this act to be swept under the carpet. When the broken body was returned to Chicago, she insisted on an open casket so that everyone could see what had been done to her 14 year old son. As one commentator says, she exposed white brutality and black faith to the world. Six hundred thousand people viewed his bruised body and attended the funeral and millions more saw photos that went viral around the world.

Two wite men admitted in court that they had kidnapped the boy however an all-white jury acquitted them of all charges after just an hour deliberation.

Within three months of the death of Emmet Till the bus boycott had begun in Montgomery and the Civil Rights movement was born.

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