Old photograph of Emmett Till

American Experience: The Murder of Emmett Till

Tuesday, August 23 at 8 p.m.

“The Murder of Emmett Till,” directed by Stanley Nelson, takes viewers back 65 years to August 1955, when a 14-year-old African American boy whistled at a white woman in a grocery store in Money, Mississippi. Emmett Till, a teen from Chicago, didn’t understand that he had broken the unwritten laws of the Jim Crow South until three days later, when on August 28 two white men dragged him from his bed in the dead of night, beat him brutally and then shot him in the head.

Although his killers were arrested and charged with murder, they were both acquitted quickly by an all-white, all-male jury. Shortly afterward, the defendants sold their story, including a detailed account of how they murdered Till, to a journalist. The murder and the trial horrified the nation and the world and helped mobilize the Civil Rights movement. Three months after his body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River, the Montgomery bus boycott began. The film uncovered new eyewitnesses to the crime and helped prompt the U.S. Department of Justice to reopen the case.

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