Emmett Till Biography

Emmett Till was an African-American teenager who was brutally murdered for allegedly flirting with a white woman. This biography of Emmett Till provides detailed information about his childhood, life, achievements, works & timeline.

Quick Facts

Birthday: July 25, 1941

Nationality: American

Famous: African Americans American Men

Sun Sign: Leo

Died At Age: 14

Also Known As: Emmett Louis Till

Born in: Chicago

Famous as: African-American teenager

father: Louis Till

mother: Mamie Till

Died on: August 28, 1955

place of death: Money

Diseases & Disabilities: Polio

More Facts

education: Mccosh Elementary School

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Emmett Till was an African-American teenager who was brutally murdered for allegedly flirting with a white woman. His death, which took place at the time when racial hatred and crimes against blacks were mounting, marked a turning point in the emerging Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Till was a young boy of 14 when he was accused of misbehavior by a white woman who alleged that he made sexual advances towards her and tried to molest her. Days later, the teenager’s badly mutilated body was pulled out of a river, shocking the collective conscience of the American society. Enraged by the brutality with which her only son had been murdered, Emmett’s mother held an open funeral which allowed the public to witness the horrors the teenager’s body had been subjected to. This shocking incident helped shed light on the racial violence and lynching of blacks that was so prevalent in the Mississippi area. While it was public knowledge that the boy had been kidnapped by the woman’s husband and a relative, Till’s family could never get the justice they desperately sought. Though initially the law enforcement officials demanded justice for the slain boy, the killers were not convicted even after they publically admitted to the crime. This shocking incident, however, helped to galvanize the African-American Civil Rights Movement.

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Emmett Till
Childhood & Early Life
  • Emmett Till was born on July 25, 1941, in Chicago, Illinois U.S. to Mamie Carthan and Louis Till. His parents separated when Emmett was very young and he was raised by his mother and grandmother.
  • He contracted polio as a young boy because of which he developed a persistent stutter. He grew up to be a happy child who loved to play pranks.
  • His mother went on to marry a man called “Pink” Bradley though this marriage too did not last long.
  • For several years Emmett and his mother lived alone in Chicago's South Side, near extended relatives. His mother was a very brave woman who managed to get a job as a civilian clerk for the U.S. Air Force and was able to provide a fairly comfortable life for her only son.
  • Emmett was a well built boy. Stocky and muscular at the age of 14, he was already beginning to look like an adult.
  • In August 1955, Emmett’s great uncle, Mose Wright came to visit them from Mississippi. He told many interesting tales of life in Mississippi which captured the imagination of the young teenager and he decided to visit the place himself.
  • Emmett asked his mother to allow him to go to Mississippi with the uncle but Mamie, who was aware of the racial violence in Mississippi, hesitated. But the teenager was persistent and finally convinced his mother to let him go.
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Murder & Aftermath
  • Emmett arrived at Mississippi on August 21, 1955. Wright was a sharecropper and part-time minister, and while he was busy with his work, Emmett would play with his cousins and the other black boys in the neighborhood.
  • On August 24, 1955 Emmett and the other teenagers went to buy some refreshments from Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market, which was owned by a young white couple, 24-year-old Roy Bryant and his 21-year-old wife Carolyn.
  • According to one of the boys Emmett was playing with, Emmett had boasted to his playmates that way back at home he had a white girlfriend. The other boys did not believe him and dared him to go and speak to the white lady at the shop.
  • What happened afterwards inside the shop is disputed. Different sources give different accounts of what transpired. While the white woman in question, Carolyn, stated that the boy flirted with her, touched her hand and even grabbed her by the waist, Emmett Till's cousin Simeon Wright challenged her story. According to Wright, he went inside the store hardly a minute after Emmett had entered and saw no inappropriate behavior. It was also alleged that the black boy whistled as he left the store though it is not known whether he whistled at the woman or at his playmates.
  • A few days later, on the early morning of August 28, 1955, the woman’s husband Roy Bryant, accompanied by his half-brother John William "J. W." Milam arrived at Mose Wright’s house and forcibly kidnapped Emmett Till and took him with them.
  • The men brutally beat up the boy, tortured him, shot him in the head, tied him with barbed wire to a large metal fan and threw his body into the Tallahatchie River.
  • Meanwhile Emmett’s relatives had contacted Leflore County sheriff George Smith who questioned Bryant and Milam in connection with Emmett’s disappearance. The men admitted that they had taken the boy but claimed that they had released him the same day.
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  • Things took a shocking turn when Emmett’s naked, badly mutilated and bloated body was retrieved from the river three days after his abduction. There was evidence of severe injuries on the body which suggested that the teenager had been badly tortured and shot to death.
  • The murder sent shock waves throughout the nation, and even though racially motivated murders were not uncommon in the region, the brutality of the crime and the circumstances surrounding it forced the people to reconsider racial segregation, discrimination and law enforcement.
  • Devastated by the shocking murder of her only son, Mamie insisted on an open casket funeral and thousands of people came to see the teenager’s bloated and mutilated body. Publications like ‘The Chicago Defender’ and ‘Jet’ magazine published pictures of the body which made international news and directed attention to the rights of the blacks in the U.S. South.
  • The trial of Roy Bryant and Milam began in September 1955. The men were tried before an all-white, all-male jury. In a display of great courage, Mose Wright took the stand and identified Bryant and Milam as Emmett Till's kidnappers and killers. This was a very brave step he took, as at that time it was unheard of for blacks to openly accuse whites in courts.
  • Emmett Till’s family and supporters fought hard for justice but in spite of the overwhelming evidence of Bryant and Milam’s guilt, both the men were acquitted of all charges. Hardly a few months after their acquittal, Bryant and Milam admitted to committing the crime to ‘Look’ magazine. However, they were protected by double jeopardy laws, a procedural defence that forbids a defendant from being tried again on the same (or similar) charges following a legitimate acquittal or conviction.
  • The black community and the civil rights activists, both black and white, were enraged after the men’s admission to the crime and pushed the federal government harder to investigate the case. The Emmett Till murder proved to a catalyst in the African-American Civil Rights Movement and played a pivotal role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
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Legacy
  • The brutal murder of Emmett Till continued to haunt American citizens for long, as evident by the number of books, documentaries and songs that either focus on the case or allude to it. Author William Faulkner wrote two essays on Till while James Baldwin loosely based his 1964 drama ‘Blues for Mister Charlie’ on the Till case. It is also believed that the character of Tom Robinson in Harper Lee’s novel ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is based on Emmett Till.
  • The James McCosh Elementary School in Chicago, where Till once studied, was renamed the "Emmett Louis Till Math And Science Academy" in 2005.
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How To Cite

Article Title
- Emmett Till Biography
Author
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
Website
- TheFamousPeople.com
URL
https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/emmett-till-6682.php
Last Updated
- September 25, 2017

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