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August 28, 2015

August 28, 1955: Emmett Till murdered

On this day in 1955, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black boy, was brutally murdered in Mississippi.

Till, who lived in Chicago, was visiting relatives in Mississippi when he was abducted by two men: Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam. The pair beat him, gouged out one of his eyes, shot him, and threw him in the Tallahatchie River with a weight attached. Till’s alleged ‘crime’: flirting with Bryant’s wife, a shopkeeper.

Police found Till’s body three days later. Till’s mother insisted that his casket be open at his funeral in Chicago, saying, “There was just no way I could describe what was in that box. No way. And I just wanted the world to see.” A photo of his bloated, mutilated face was published in several outlets, leading to public outcry and increased scrutiny of civil rights in the South. (I won’t link to the photo here, but you can easily find it on Google.)

Bryant and Milam were acquitted of murder charges; they later bragged of their deed to Look magazine, taking full advantage of their protection against double jeopardy.

Image: family photo, Christmas 1954.

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