I was ten when fourteen year old Emmett Till was killed in Money, Mississippi. Somehow I recall seeing the ghastly photos of his battered body in Life magazine. He was a kid not much older than I, and his death made it seem like a dangerous world.
Black people and white people choose to remember history differently. Some of us choose not to remember history at all.
I found this interactive piece oddly moving. Fewer than 100 people live in Money now. The store where Emmett went to buy candy and wound up dead is collapsing in decay. Two white rednecks who lived in Money in 1955, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, thought Till had crossed racial lines with the white woman behind the counter, Carolyn Bryant Donham. She later recanted parts of her story. The two men were acquitted in a show trial. There is not any doubt that they brutally killed the fourteen year old black boy. The men are both now dead. Emmett Till never got to grow up.
At the time, black families made sure their children knew about Emmett’s fate. White families apparently did not.
“Willie Williams and Donna Spell grew up about eight miles from each other in the Delta. They are 10 years apart in age. He learned about Emmett Till as a child. She learned about him as an adult. Mr. Williams is black. Ms. Spell is white.
Mr. Williams said his parents told him about Emmett’s story “as a way of being careful.” Ms. Spell said Emmett’s horrific death was not a story “my parents would have told their children.”
We surely tell different stories even today.
Just curious: if you are “of a certain age” were you aware of Emmett Till’s murder? Did you see the Life magazine piece? Did it make a difference, later, in the way you viewed civil rights? And if you don’t mind saying, did you view the murder of Emmett Till through white or non-white eyes?