Emmett Louis “Bobo” Till
By Brian W. Carter
Sentinel Staff Writer
He was a young boy who saw a pretty lady. Today, a guy would’ve ‘holla’d’ at her and tried to get her number. This young boy whistled at a woman he found attractive. Today, she probably would’ve been flattered, and spoken to him or went on about her business. Yesterday in 1955, Money, Mississippi, a whistle killed a young boy whose name was Emmett Till.
Emmett Louis “Bobo” Till was born in August, July 25 in 1941. He was the son of John and Alma Carthan born in a small town called Webb, Mississippi. The family would later relocated to Chicago, Illinois. Till’s father and mother eventually separated and she remarried. Till suffered from polio in his early childhood that left him with a stutter.
By 1955, a 14-year-old Till was a physically, well-developed young man standing at 5’5, weighing around 160 pounds. It was at this time that Till was staying with his uncle in Money, Mississippi. On August 24 1955, Till and along with other youth went to Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market which was owned by a white couple, Roy and Carolyn Bryant.
There are varying stories about what happened, but all refer to Till making some sort of advancement towards Ms. Bryant. Some accounts says Till was dared to ask her out on a date, flirt with her, or make a sexual innuendo towards her. Till’s cousin claimed that Till whistled at her and that was all.
The events at the store spread around town and eventually to Mr. Bryant. Ms. Bryant claimed Till grabbed her by the waist and spoke dirty towards her. Mr. Bryant and his brother would later find and confront Till, once Ms. Bryant identified Till as the young boy who made the comments, they took him away into the night. Till’s body would later be found brutally beaten, a gunshot wound to the head and disfigured from being weighted down in the Talllahatchie River near Glendora Mississippi.
Mr. Bryant and his brother were questioned by authorities and claimed they let Till go after they realized they had the wrong boy. An all-white, all-male jury would later acquit Mr. Bryant and his brother, despite witnesses and testimonies. They later recanted they admitted to killing Till after their acquittal in an interview with Look Magazine in 1956. The acquittal and circumstance surrounding the trial would ignite a Civil Rights movement.
Till was a young boy who was unaware of the deep and dark hatred that lived in the South. The innocent childhood antics shrugged off today, ended up costing him his life. If there is one good thing that came out of this terrible tragedy was that eyes were opened. This incident left a sting in the Black community’s eye that led to finding a salve. The search for that salve created a movement which is still in progress today and for Till’s sake will continue on into the future.