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How Emmett Till's Murder Spurred The Civil Rights Movement

Courtesy University Press of Mississippi

In the summer of 1955, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago, was visiting family in Money, Mississippi.

After an incident in which he allegedly whistled at a white woman named Carolyn Bryant, Till was kidnapped in the middle of the night. His body was later found disfigured in the Tallahatchie River.

Emmett's mother insisted on an open casket funeral to show the brutality inflicted on her son. Photos from the funeral, including a few of his mutilated body, were published in Jet Magazine, bringing the case to national consciousness. 

Many consider this incident and the result of the subsequent trial – in which two white suspects were acquitted – as the beginning of a national outrage over the treatment of African-Americans in the 1950s. 

Bryant has since admitted that some of her accusations against Till were untrue.

Till's 12-year-old cousin witnessed his abduction and helped identify the remains. He died this month at the age of 74. 

How did this happen and what can we learn? Did Till's death spark the civil rights movement? Is a cold case from over 60 years ago still relevant today? 

Guest: Devery Anderson, author of "Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement"

This is a community conversation and we want to hear from you. Leave a voicemail with your questions and comments in advance by calling 210-615-8982. During the live show (12 - 1 p.m.), call 210-614-8980, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet at @TPRSource.

Jan Ross Piedad Sakian is TPR’s News Operations Producer. In this role, she develops strategy on collaborative and digital initiatives for the station. Since 2016, Jan Ross has served in a coordinating capacity for TPR’s state and national partners, including The Texas Newsroom.