Chicago’s African American community, media, and Mamie Till-Mobley turned Emmett’s murder into a transformational moment for racial justice in America.
In August 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was accused of insulting a white woman in Money, Mississippi. Days later, two white men kidnapped, brutally beat, and shot Emmett. His body was later found in the Tallahatchie River. Mamie Bradley, speaking of her son’s lynching by Mississippi racists, said she wanted “the world to see what they did to my baby.” Because of Chicago’s African American community and media, the world did.
Following the murder, thousands of African Americans converged on Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood to view Till’s mutilated body in a showing of mourning, solidarity and outrage.
Chicago’s The Defender and Jet Magazine, respectively the most influential black newspaper and magazine in America, took the historic step of publishing photos of Emmett’s mutilated body. Mamie Bradley and the publishers’ decision to publish the photos shocked Americans nationwide and jump started the modern Civil Rights movement. Rosa Parks would later say it was Emmett’s murder that moved her to refuse to give up her bus seat. “I thought of Emmett Till, and when the bus driver ordered me to move to the back, I just couldn’t move.”