Emmett Louis Till was born July 25,
1941 in Chicago, Ill. to Louis and Mamie Till (later Till-Mobley).
At the age of five he was stricken with polio, and although
he recovered, he spoke with a slight stutter.
Till-Mobley became a single mother after Till’s father
died during World War II. They remained in Chicago with other
family members, and Emmett Till went to McCosh Elementary, an
Emmett Till went to spend a two-week vacation with cousin Wheeler
Parker and his great-uncle Moses Wright and family in Money,
Miss. during the late summer of 1955. That was the last time
his mother ever saw her son alive.
On Aug. 24, Emmett Till and his friends went to a white-owned
local grocery store, Bryant’s Grocery & Meat Market,
to buy some candy. The store clerk, Caroline Bryant, claimed
that Till whistled at her as he left the store. Her husband,
storeowner Roy Bryant, heard about the incident and called his
half-brother John Milam to help look for Till and “teach
him a lesson.”
At about 2:30 a.m. on Aug. 28, the two white men showed up
at Moses Wright’s home and kidnapped Till. A few days later,
Till’s nude body was found in the Tallahatchie River, with
a huge cotton gin separator tied around his neck with barbed
Till had been severely beaten and shot above his right ear,
which was partially torn off. Only two or three of his teeth
so Till’s mother had to identify him by his father’s
ring and the color in the one eye that was left on Till’s
Although Till’s body was mutilated and disfigured, his
mother insisted on having an open casket at his funeral so that
the world could see the horrors of his murder. More than 200,000
people viewed Till’s body as it lay in state for four days
at A.A. Rayner Funeral Home in Chicago.
Roy Bryant and his half-brother John Milam were charged with
Till’s murder and were tried in Sumner, Miss. The trial
lasted only five days, and after only one hour and seven minutes
of deliberation, the all-white jury acquitted both Bryant and
In January 1956, the men sold their story to Look magazine
for $4,000, admitted they killed Till. No one has ever been
of Till’s murder.
The black community’s reaction to Till’s murder and
Bryant and Milam’s acquittal was one of the starting points
of America’s Civil Rights Movement.
Many blacks stopped purchasing from the Bryant’s store,
and it eventually went out of business.
One hundred days after Emmett Till’s death, Rosa Parks
was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a
Following this was the bus boycott, led by Martin Luther
King Jr., that gave the Civil Rights Movement its momentum.