In 1955, the United States Supreme Court made it illegal to segregate the blacks, but they still continued to suffer from oppression.
In the same year, a teenage boy became a victim of the reign of terror under which the blacks lived. His story would have been consumed by history had the mother not brought the brutality to limelight.
Before the Black Lives Matter chants or the Charlotte and Ferguson protests, there was the story of Emmett Till.
Everything started when a 14-year-old boy, accompanied by his cousins, walked into a Mississippi general store.
According to details gathered from Emmet’s cousin, Simeon Wright, the boy whistled at Mrs. Bryant. All he wanted was to make them laugh, nothing more.
But as things turned out, that single whistle would be the gateway to his death.
Police found his body floating in a river seven days later — so badly beaten that his mother, Mamie Till Mobley, could barely identify him.
Mrs. Mobley said that his tongue had been choked out such that it lay on the chin. “This eye was out and it was lying about mid-way the cheek. I discovered a hole. And I said, ‘Well, was it necessary to shoot him?’”
Expose the brutality
As she agonized with grief, horror and disbelief, Mobley decided to bring the matter to public attention. She allowed the black pres to publish his body in an open casket.
She so badly wanted the public to know the story but did not have the strength to tell it. Her only option? Well, give them a picture of her son.
Wright said that the unbelievable acts on the innocent boy only revealed how cruel the blacks were being treated.
The perpetuators intended to make the black people deep in the South become more frightful. That’s according to Michael Dyson, a Georgetown University sociology professor. But what came out was a complete opposite. It sparked a movement.
When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus, she said all she saw was Till’s face. When instigating the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Martin Luther King Jr. was sure to revive his memory, something that fired up the crowd.
A film to capture the story
For the last 25 years, Beauchamp has been collecting new details about Till’s death, which he will reveal in an upcoming feature film. This is his ultimate chance to give a complete picture of the story.
In 2005, the body of Till was exhumed but his casket was left forgotten until when a family member discovered it. It was donated to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
No one was ever convicted of Till’s murder, but his mother believes his legacy has become his justice.
The people needed something to stir them up and that picture did manage to do exactly that.