New Film Documents Mamie Till-Mobley’s Fight for Justice for Her 14-Year-Old Son, Emmett Louis Till

I remember learning about Emmett Till as early as third grade and then again, in about sixth grade.

Now, Whoopi Goldberg and Danielle Deadwyler will star in Chinonye Chukwu’s upcoming film “Till,” about Mamie Till-Mobley’s fight for justice for her 14-year-old son, Emmett Louis Till. All American star Jayln Hall has been cast to play the role of Emmett.

“Till” chronicles Mamie’s decision to have an open casket at Emmett’s funeral and to allow Jet magazine publish David Jackson’s funeral photos, in order to ensure people everywhere saw the true horrors of her son’s murder. The decision from the grieving mother was a galvanizing moment that led to the creation of the civil rights movement.”

https://variety.com/2021/film/news/whoopi-goldberg-emmett-till-movie-danielle-deadwyler-1235026380/

Emmett Till was brutally murdered early on August 28, 1955, one month and three days after his 14th birthday, after being falsely accused of whistling at a white woman. His mother, Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley, showed his body in an open casket so the whole world could see what they did to her son. “Let the world see what I’ve seen,” she said, which became a call-to-action after Jet Magazine published the photos.

Emmett Till was in Money, Mississippi, visiting his relatives when he encountered Mrs. Bryant at a store for the summer. There are multiple variations of what supposedly took place. I’ve been following the story of Emmett for a long time, and I’ve seen pretty much every documentary made of him.

Some people say he showed his cousins a picture of his school in Chicago, an integrated class, and bragged about how he would speak to that white woman. Other accounts claim he grabbed Bryant’s hand while she was stocking candy. “What’s the matter, baby,” he allegedly said, “can’t you take it?” The most infamous accusation is that he whistled at her.

None of these accusations are true, and in “The Blood of Emmett Till,” a book by Timothy Tyson, Carolyn Bryant admits she lied.

Days after the alleged incident, Roy Bryant and his brother-in-law, J.W. Milam, kidnapped Emmett from his great uncle’s home and brutally murdered him. They then tied a cotton gin fan blade to his body with barbed wire and dumped him in the Tallahatchie River.

If you are familiar with the show, All American, you know Hall has a lisp, which could explain why he’s a good fit for the role outside of his acting skills. According to Mamie, Emmett had a speech impediment that made it impossible for him to have whistled at Carolyn.

Black Trauma

Whenever I post this kind of content, I get feedback from people saying I shouldn’t be talking about it. Some have even said they should not make the film.

I get it.

I understand the perpetuation of black trauma by the media, and I empathize with the fed-upness of black death.

I also want to acknowledge people who experience high sensitivity to these sorts of things. This post is in no way dismissive of that, and I understand if you can’t view these sorts of things.

But aside from this, consider the proverb, “Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.”

If we do not tell our side of the story, our children will continue to receive a watered-down version of their history.

Memphis, TN, Wither’s Collection Museum. Photo by Yecheilyah Ysrayl, 2021. Used with permission.

Three months after his death, Rosa Parks communicated with Mamie Till that she thought about Emmett as she sat on that bus and refused to move. This resistance led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the opening of the floodgates for what we now know as The Civil Rights Movement.

But that is not the full story.

Rosa Parks was not some feeble old lady our childhood textbooks make her out to be, and she was not the only black woman who refused to give up her seat in defiance of segregation. Parks was 41 years young and was already working with Dr. King and served as secretary for the NAACP, where her husband, Raymond Parks, was already an active member.

Parks’ cemented her place in history, and I am sure she thought of Emmett, but she wasn’t an old lady. She was tired alright, but not physically.

“Parks wasn’t physically tired and was able to leave her seat. She refused, on principle, to surrender her seat because of her race.”

https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/rosa-parks-journey-as-a-civil-rights-icon

The NAACP was already organizing and looking for a test case about segregation on Montgomery’s bus system, but their first potential test case was pregnant and did not fit the image they wanted to represent the movement. The whole thing was carefully orchestrated in a campaign to end segregation on buses.

“They said they didn’t want to use a pregnant teenager because it would be controversial and the people would talk about the pregnancy more than the boycott.” – Colvin

This in no way dismisses Park’s historical actions (because planned or not, she didn’t have to do it) but seeks to shine a light on the other “Rosa’s” who also refused to give up their seat to support integration. We have forgotten the Claudette Colvin’s, Aurelia Browder’s, and Irene Morgan’s of the world because the writers of his-story never told their stories.

There is an entirely new generation of children who do not know the racist history of this (America) nation and how it is relatable to our current times. They can’t compare Trayvon Martin to Emmett Till because they don’t know who Emmett Till was. They can’t connect housing discrimination with Red Lining because they don’t know what Red Lining is. They can’t connect the crack epidemic of the 1980s with the Iran-Contra Affair because they don’t know history.

How did crack cocaine end up in black communities? How did it destroy black families?

As Furious Styles says in Boyz N The Hood, “How you think the crack rock gets into the country? We don’t own any planes. We don’t own no ships. We are not the people who are flyin’ and floatin’ that shit in here.”

Yes, he’s a fictional character, but a real black man (John Daniel Singleton) wrote the script.

“Why do you think there’s a liquor store on every corner? The same reason there’s a gun store on every corner. They want us to kill ourselves.” (Boyz N The Hood, 1991)

Do I think black people should be inundated with negativity and brutality, constantly subjected to the image of black men and women dying in the streets? Of course not. Black history is not only black trauma.

But no one tells the Jews to stop talking about the holocaust or Americans to stop talking about 9/11.

I believe that we encourage them to be forgotten by not retelling these stories. We can do this in various ways, not only through the display of horrific images on television.

Black women are putting this film together because they understand what it means to lose black sons, not only in 1955 but also in 2021.

I know black mothers don’t raise their sons to be murderers just as much as I know they don’t raise them to be murdered.

Jasmine Mans

Unfamiliar Faces – Lost to History: Before Parks

“They said they didn’t want to use a pregnant teenager because it would be controversial and the people would talk about the pregnancy more than the boycott,” Colvin says.

https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-43171799

Was Rosa Parks the only woman to refuse to give up her seat on a segregated bus? Below are a few of the women left out of the history books. 


Irene Morgan – We have all heard of Rosa Parks, but there were at least three women who refused to give up their seats on the bus in the Jim Crow south throughout history. Eleven years before Parks, Irene Morgan, later known as Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, a black woman, was arrested in Middlesex County, Virginia, in 1944 for refusing to give up her seat on an interstate bus according to a state law on segregation. The Irene Morgan Decision inspired the men and women of CORE to create a nationwide protest movement called “The Journey of Reconciliation” when groups of civil rights activists rode buses and trains across states in the South in 1947, a precursor to The Freedom Rides of 1961.

The Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia, handed down a landmark decision on June 3, 1946, when they agreed that segregation violated the Constitution’s protection of interstate commerce. Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth catalyzed further court rulings and the Civil Rights movement. Eight years later, the Supreme Court decided in Brown v. Board of Education that segregation violated Equal Rights Protection.

Irene Morgan died on August 10, 2007.

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Claudette Colvin – Born on September 5, 1939, in Montgomery, Alabama, Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat to a white passenger months before Rosa Parks on March 2, 1955. Colvin was only 15 years old but she was poor. She didn’t have the NAACP or the connections Parks had. As a result, little is know of her. The NAACP considered using Claudette but they said she was too young. They also looked away because she was pregnant and they did not want to represent a young, unwed mother and bring about negative attention to the movement. They thought Colvin’s condition would make blacks look bad. Colvin went on to serve as a plaintiff in the landmark legal case Browder v. Gayle, which helped end the practice of segregation on Montgomery public buses. Today, Claudette Colvin is still not a name you hear very often concerning bus desegregation, even though she was there before Parks.

“Whenever people ask me: ‘Why didn’t you get up when the bus driver asked you?’ I say it felt as though Harriet Tubman’s hands were pushing me down on one shoulder and Sojourner Truth’s hands were pushing me down on the other shoulder. I felt inspired by these women because my teacher taught us about them in so much detail,” she says.

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Aurelia Browder – After Colvin, Aurelia Browder followed suit and was arrested on April 19, 1955, for refusing to give up her seat. Browder was born on January 29, 1919. She joined the NAACP, SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), the Women’s Political Council (WPC), and the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). Aurelia could join all the organizations she wanted but with six children and no husband, her refusal to give up her seat on a bus did not stick, even though she was before Parks.

Mary Louise Smith – Mary was born in 1937, in Montgomery, Alabama. She attended and graduated from St. Jude Educational Institute. On October 21, 1955, at the age of 18, Mary was returning home on the Montgomery city bus. At a stop after Mary had boarded and seated, a white passenger boarded. There was no place for the white passenger to sit and Mary was ordered to give up her seat. She refused. Mary was arrested and charged with failure to obey segregation orders and given a nine dollar fine, which her father paid.

Irene, Claudette, Aurelia, and Mary Louise was followed by Susie McDonald, and Jeanetta Reese, all had been arrested and charged with violating various policies regarding segregated seating on city buses.


Discover more Black History Fun Facts and Lost to History Facts HERE.