The 51st Anniversary of Emmett Till’s Death: Making the Connection

Throughout American history, all successful social reform movements—from the movement to enact child labor laws to the civil rights movement—have used images that depict victims of maltreatment and violence. Public support for such reforms could not have been garnered without publicly showing graphic images of the victims. The case of Emmett Till, whose death we remember today, is no exception. Emmett Till was a 14-year old black boy who whistled at a white woman in a grocery store in Money, Mississippi in 1955. Till, who was from Chicago, didn’t understand that he had violated the unwritten “rules” of the Jim Crow South until three days later, when two white men dragged him from his bed, savagely beat him, shot him in the head, and threw his body into a river. Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till, insisted on an open casket at his funeral so that the world could see “what they did to my boy.” His face was battered beyond recognition, and his body had decomposed after being underwater for several days. Although his killers were acquitted by an all-white jury, the image of his mutilated body made an indelible mark in people’s minds, and helped mobilize the civil rights movement. Shortly thereafter, the Montgomery bus boycott began. Malachi As a loving mother, Mamie Till wanted all to see the brutality that her son endured at the hands of violent racists. So too, out of compassion for the victims of abortion, we want all to see the brutality that they endured under the guise of “choice.” Displaying graphic abortion pictures reminds the general public that even today, babies are still being murdered in staggering numbers, and that those who value human life from the moment of conception will not rest until abortion is eradicated.

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