Emmett Till , in full Emmett Louis Till (born July 25, 1941, Chicago, Ill., U.S.—died Aug. 28, 1955, Money, Miss.), African American teenager whose murder catalyzed the emerging civil rights movement.
Till was born to working-class parents on the South Side of Chicago. When he was barely 14 years old, Till took a trip to rural Mississippi to spend the summer with relatives. He had been warned by his mother (who knew him to be a jokester accustomed to being the centre of attention) that whites in the South could react violently to behaviour that was tolerated in the North. This animosity was exacerbated by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision (in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka), which overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine established in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) that allowed racial segregation in public facilities.
Till arrived in Money, Miss., on Aug. 21, 1955. He stayed with his great-uncle, Moses Wright, who was a sharecropper, and he spent his days helping with the cotton harvest. On August 24, Till and a group of other teens went to a local grocery store after a day of working in the fields. Accounts of what transpired thereafter vary. Some witnesses stated that one of the other boys dared Till to talk to the store’s cashier, Carolyn Bryant, a white woman. It was reported that Till then whistled at, touched the hand or waist of, or flirted with the woman as he was leaving the store. Whatever the truth, Till did not mention the incident to his great-uncle. In the early morning hours of August 28, Roy Bryant, the cashier’s husband, and J.W. Milam, Bryant’s half brother, forced their way into Wright’s home and abducted Till at gunpoint. Bryant and Milam severely beat the boy, gouging out one of his eyes. They then took him to the banks of the Tallahatchie River, where they killed him with a single gunshot to the head. The two men tied the teen’s body to a large metal fan with a length of barbed wire before dumping the corpse into the river.
Wright reported the kidnapping to the police, and