April 14, 2023


Emmett Till's Murder: The Importance of Seeing and Remembering: A museum exhibition dedicated to Till and his mother collides with the Mississippi governor's proclamation of Confederate Heritage Month. (MARGARET MCMULLAN  APRIL 14, 2023, The Bulwark)

He stuttered because he had polio as a child. To help his speech, he imitated his favorite TV comedians and memorized the Gettysburg Address. He whistled, too.

To prepare Emmett for the racism he would inevitably experience in midcentury Mississippi, his mother gave him instructions: Don't look white people in the eye. Move off the sidewalk when you see one coming.

"Oh, Mama. It can't be that bad," 14-year-old Emmett said.

"Emmett, it's worse than that."

Coming from a concerned mother, these words resonate perhaps even more now, in this era of widely documented and sometimes instantly broadcast police brutality and racial violence. But African-American parents have always felt the need to give their children the talk.

"How do you give a crash course in hatred to a boy who has only known love?" Mamie Till-Mobley later wrote.

In Chicago, before he boarded the train headed south to visit his cousins for the summer, Emmett asked his mother to have his bike fixed while he was away. He promised to pay her back. He gave her his watch to wear while he was gone.

He never did return home alive.

Posted by at April 14, 2023 8:07 AM