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Media Coverage Of The Emmitt Till Murder Played A Major Role In The Civil Rights Movement

1678 words - 7 pages

On August 28, 1955, fourteen year old Emmett Till was beaten, tortured and shot. Then with barbed wire wrapped around his neck and tied to a large fan, his body was discarded into the Tallahatchi River. What was young Emmett’s offense that brought on this heinous reaction of two grown white men? When he went into a store to buy some bubble gum he allegedly whistled at a white female store clerk, who happened to be the store owner’s wife. That is the story of the end of Emmett Till’s life. Lynchings, beatings and cross-burning had been happening in the United States for years. But it was not until this young boy suffered an appalling murder in Mississippi that the eyes of a nation were irrevocably opened to the ongoing horrors of racism in the South. It sparked the beginning of a flourish of both national and international media coverage of the Civil Rights violations in America.
In the 2005 documentary, The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, Emmett’s mother, Mamie states that Sheriff Strider of Charleston decided to have her son’s body buried immediately there in Mississippi instead of sending it back to her in Chicago. It took Mrs. Till’s rallying of Officials in Chicago, where she lived, to have the burying of her son halted at the moment his body was about to be lowered into the ground. She went to great personal expense for her son to be shipped home to her. Upon receiving the box she wanted to see her only child one last time and see what his murderers had done to him. Opening the box and viewing the corpse revealed the ghastly truth of what had happened to her precious boy. In an astounding move she decided to have an open casket viewing. When asked by the funeral director if she wanted him to try to clean up the body and make any repairs before putting him on display and she said emphatically, “No. Let the people see what I see. I want the world to see this. Because there is no way that I could tell this story and give them the visual picture of what my son looked like” (The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till). As quoted in the same documentary, Rev. Al Sharpton recalls this poignant moment in Civil Rights history and what it meant to black people in America at the time. Sharpton summarizes her decision, “She found the strength to say, ‘I’ll bear my pain to save some other mother from having to go through this’. And because she put the picture of this young man’s body on the conscious of America she might have saved thousands of young black men and women’s lives.” The Reverend goes on to say that through the media coverage of the funeral, “She was able to graphically bring home what a thousand speeches could not” therefore forcing America face it’s problem of racism.
News of Emmett Till’s murder reached media sources across the country and over the ocean. PBS’s history series The American Experience, provides a timeline of how his story spread like wildfire to newspapers around the world. PBS lists several publications which...

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