Will George Floyd’s Death with a Knee on His Neck Become Nation’s ‘Emmett Till Moment?’Historians in the News
tags: racism, civil rights, media, Protest
Emmett Till’s lynching ignited a civil rights movement. Historians say George Floyd’s death could do the same.
At protests held across the United States in recent weeks, many have invoked the name of Emmett Till to suggest the nation could be in the midst of a defining moment that could inspire societal shifts.
They say the degree of outrage, mobilization and attention spurred by the horrific, visceral recordings of the deaths of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor could have a catalyzing effect similar to that of Till’s lynching, which shocked the world and gave birth to a generation of civil rights activists.
“These two tragedies showed the tipping point of society,” said Benjamin Saulsberry, museum director at the Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Sumner, Mississippi. “The Emmett Till murder was not the first murder. There were so many others. But it was the tipping point.”
Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago, was lynched in August 1955 while visiting family in Money, Mississippi. After supposedly whistling at a white woman, Till was kidnapped by a group of white men who tortured and killed him. His body was discovered in the Tallahatchie River, with a 74-pound cotton gin fan barb-wired to his neck.
Two men were later acquitted on murder charges, and a grand jury declined to indict them on kidnapping charges.
Years later, the white woman involved in the incident said she lied when she said Till had touched her.
Till’s mother Mamie Till-Mobley forced the world to take a deeper look at racism in the United States when she decided to have a public, open-casket viewing, held on the South Side at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, 4021 S. State St. Over the course of four days, tens of thousands of people stood in line to view the murdered teenager’s body.
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