EMMETT TILL VISITS MISSISSIPPI (Illustration) Biographies African American History Civil Rights Social Studies Fiction Ethics Film

Emmett Till in a photo his mother took on Christmas Day, 1954. At the time, he was in 7th grade.  Image online via Wikimedia Commons.


In August of 1955, an African-American boy named Emmett Till wanted to visit relatives in Mississippi.  Fourteen years old, Emmett was an only child who lived with his mother in Chicago.  They were very close, especially after his father - a U.S. soldier - was executed in Italy (for "misconduct") during World War II.
Not everyone agreed that Emmett (also known as "Bobo" and/or "Bo")  should make the trip.  Would he be safe?  Although he would stay with his great-uncle, Mose Wright (also known as the "Preacher"), young Till was not used to living under Jim-Crow conditions.

Concluding a 16-hour train trip, beginning on the 20th of August, Emmett and his traveling companions (a 16-year-old cousin, Wheeler Parker, and Uncle Mose) arrived at their destination in Clarksdale.  Bo was looking forward to a fun time with his family (who lived nearby, in a small town called Money).

After a day of picking cotton, young African-Americans liked to hang out at a local store - called Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market - where they could play games and buy candy or refreshments.  Till was part of such a group when he arrived in Mississippi. 

Big for his age, at around 140 pounds, Emmet already looked like a young man.  According to some accounts, he liked to brag about his prowess with girls.  Not everyone believed him, but it was fun for his friends to hear Bo talk.

On the 24th of August, Till and his pals were at Bryant's.  Something happened inside the store, when the visitor from Chicago bought two-cents-worth of bubble gum, although factual accounts vary.  Whatever Till said, or did, upset the owner’s wife - Carolyn Bryant, a white woman - who was running the cash register that day.

Following Bo out of the store, Carolyn reportedly got a gun from her car.  Not waiting for her next move, Till and his friends left the area - after Emmett "wolf-whistled" at Bryant.

Fearing her husband’s reaction to the events, Carolyn did not tell him about her encounter with Emmet Till (nor did the young people initially tell Mose Wright).  Word about the whistle reached Roy Bryant days later, after he returned from an out-of-state business trip.  He, and his half-brother - J.W. Milam - decided to teach the lad from Chicago a lesson.

Around 2 o’clock in the morning, on August 28th, Bryant and Milam went to the Preacher’s cabin.  Pounding on the door, they demanded to see Wright’s visiting great-nephew.  Never intending just to talk with Emmet, the two men abducted him.

We know what happened thereafter because Bryant and Milam sold their story to Look magazine (where it was reported in detail).  What the two men did to Emmett Till - and how his mother responded - produced a spark which lit America’s civil-rights movement.   

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5189stories and lessons created

Original Release: Aug 01, 2011

Updated Last Revision: Aug 31, 2017

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"EMMETT TILL VISITS MISSISSIPPI" AwesomeStories.com. Aug 01, 2011. Dec 13, 2019.
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