Weird History

How The Murder Of Emmett Till Impacted The Civil Rights Movement - And Remains Relevant Today

In 1955, a 14-year-old boy visiting his cousins in Mississippi became the victim of a brutal, racially motivated attack. After rumors spread that Emmett Till had whistled at a white woman, two men kidnapped and beat the teenager, ultimately shooting him in the head and throwing his body into a river.

The murder sparked national outrage when Emmett's mother, Mamie Till, insisted on an open-casket funeral so people could see the horrific injuries he suffered. Emmett's death led directly to Rosa Parks's protest and the Montgomery bus boycott, which propelled Martin Luther King Jr. to national prominence.

Like other horrific instances of racial violence, including the 1921 Tulsa massacre and thousands of lynchings after the Civil War, Till's murder reinforced the ugliness and injustice of white supremacy in America. But the case also acted as a catalyst for the civil rights movement - especially after an all-white jury acquitted the murderers, who publicly confessed to the crime. For decades, the murder of Emmett Till has inspired people to fight for change.