In Tallahatchie County, Mississipi, there is a tiny historically African American town called Glendora (population 285). When I drove to down to visit a friend in Clarksdale, we made the trip down to Glendora to visit the Emmett Till Historic Intrepid Center (ETHIC), where the Mayor of Glendora runs a small museum dedicated to understanding and healing through knowledge of the horrible events surround Emmett’s brutal murder in 1955.
It was a somber and rainy as we drove past flat fields and cyprus swamps on our way to ETHIC. When we arrived at the old cotton gin where the center is housed (the same place Emmett’s murders went to get a large fan to sink his body), the center was closed. There was a number on the door and a note asking visitors to please call for admission. The mayor answered the phone and informed us he was at a funeral. Of course, we said it was no problem and we’d just come back another time, but he insisted on coming over from the tiny church visible across a field, and showing us around. It was moving evidence of how dedicated he was to sharing the painful story of Emmett Till and the center’s message of healing and reconciliation.
In case you don’t know, Emmett Till was a 14 year old Black boy who, after coming from Chicago to visit extended family in Mississippi, was brutally tortured and murdered by two white men after he reportedly flirted with a white woman. His body was found three days later in the Tallahatchie River with a industrial fan tied to his neck. The men were acquitted, and protected from further prosecution, then told the story of how they tortured him in detail to Look magazine.
After his body was sent back to Chicago, Emmett’s mother insisted on an open casket so that the world could see what had been done to her child. The images of his mutilated face were published all over the country, starkly showing white Americans the cost of Jim Crow and racism. Emmett’s death, the acquittal of his murderers, and the press coverage of his funeral were a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement. If you find yourself in the area, I highly recommend taking a visit to ETHIC to learn more about Emmett Till and his legacy.
[35mm shot with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000. Click here for more pictures of my travels in the US.]