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The murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till on August 28, 1955, galvanized the emerging Civil Rights Movement.
Emmett Till - Legacy (2:16)
Medgar Evers – Assassination (3:10)
Medgar Evers – Legacy (1:50)
On August 24, 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till reportedly flirted with a white cashier in Money, Mississippi. Four days later, two white men tortured and murdered Till. His murder galvanized the emerging Civil Rights Movement.
Trailer for the documentary film "The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till." Video courtesy of Keith Beauchamp.
As an NAACP field secretary, Medgar Evers became a target for those who opposed racial equality and desegregation. On June 12, 1963 at 12:40 a.m., Evers was shot in the back in the driveway of his home in Jackson, Mississippi.
In 1954, Medgar Evers became the first state field secretary of the NAACP in Mississippi. As a civil rights leader, he fought to end the racial injustice he experienced growing up in the South.
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Fourteen-year-old Emmett Till was visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi, on August 24, 1955, when he reportedly flirted with a white cashier at a grocery store. Four days later, two white men kidnapped Till, beat him and shot him in the head. The men were tried for murder, but an all-white, male jury acquitted them. Till's murder and open casket funeral galvanized the emerging Civil Rights Movement.
"With his body water-soaked and defaced, most people would have kept the casket covered. [His mother] let the body be exposed. More than 100,000 people saw his body lying in that casket here in Chicago. That must have been at that time the largest single civil rights demonstration in American history."
"I remembered thinking that it could happen to anyone, me or my brothers or my cousins. It created a sense of fear that it could happen to anyone who got out of line."
"This boy's dreadful tragedy I can still remember well. The color of his skin was black and his name was Emmett Till."
"Oh, God. Oh, God. My only boy."
"Lord you gave your only son to remedy a condition, but who knows, but what the death of my only son might bring an end to lynching."
"I thought about Emmett Till, and I couldn't go back [to the back of the bus]."
"The entire state of Mississippi is going to pay for this."
"It never occurred to me that Bobo would be killed for whistling at a white woman."
"It would appear that the state of Mississippi has decided to maintain white supremacy by murdering children."
"[Emmett Till's murder was] one of the most brutal and inhuman crimes of the 20th century."
"J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant died with Emmett Till's blood on their hands. And it looks like everyone else who was involved is going to do the same. They had a chance to come clean. They will die with Emmett Till's blood on their hands."
Emmett Louis Till was born on July 25, 1941, in Chicago, Illinois, the only child of Louis and Mamie Till. Till never knew his father, a private in the United States Army during World War II. Mamie and Louis Till separated in 1942, and three years later, the family received word from the Army that the soldier had been executed for "willful misconduct" while serving in Italy.
Emmett Till's mother was, by all accounts, an extraordinary woman. Defying the social constraints and discrimination she faced as an African-American woman growing up in the 1920s and '30s, Mamie Till excelled both academically and professionally. She was only the fourth black student to graduate from suburban Chicago's predominantly white Argo Community High School, and the first black student to make the school's "A" Honor Roll. While raising Emmett Till as a single mother, she worked long hours for the Air Force as a clerk in charge of confidential files.
Emmett Till, who went by the nickname Bobo, grew up in a thriving, middle-class black neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. The neighborhood was a haven for black-owned businesses, and the streets he roamed as a child were lined with black-owned insurance companies, pharmacies and beauty salons as well as nightclubs that drew the likes of Duke Ellington and Sarah Vaughan. Those who knew Till best described him as a responsible, funny, and infectiously high-spirited child. He was stricken with polio at the age of 5, but managed to make a full recovery, save a slight stutter that remained with him for the rest of his life.
With his mother often working more than 12-hour days, Till took on his full share of domestic responsibilities from a very young age. "Emmett had all the house responsibility," His mother later recalled. "I mean everything was really on his shoulders, and Emmett took it upon himself. He told me if I would work, and make the money, he would take care of everything else. He cleaned, and he cooked quite a bit. And he even took over the laundry."
Till attended the all-black McCosh Grammar School. His classmate and childhood pal, Richard Heard, later recalled, "Emmett was a funny guy all the time. He had a suitcase of jokes that he liked to tell. He loved to make people laugh. He was a chubby kid; most of the guys were skinny, but he didn't let that stand in his way. He made a lot of friends at McCosh."
In August 1955, Till's great uncle, Moses Wright, came up from Mississippi to visit the family in Chicago. At the end of his stay, Wright was planning to take Till's cousin, Wheeler Parker, back to Mississippi with him to visit relatives down South, and when Till, who was just 14 years old at the time, learned of these plans, he begged his mother to let him go along.
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For the notable people who were dedicated to their professions, such as anthropologist Dian Fossey and civil rights activist Medgar Evers, their early deaths were considered tragic. For the felons and serial killers, like mobster Sam Giancana and infamous gunfighter Billy the Kid, their demises were considered karmic. No matter how you look at them, explore our collection of famous people who were murdered, and view full biographies, photos, videos and more, only at Biography.com.
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