I, Too, Remember Emmett Till #BlackHistoryMonth

I close this Black History Month with a long quote by the late Sen. John Lewis. His words have stirred my own memories of Emmett Till.

Emmett Till became my generation’s poster boy to accompany our parents’ lectures on what could happen to black children who misbehaved while on summer vacation to our Southern relatives. That despoiling of a black child’s innocence would carry over into all of our early interactions with whites. Even today, multi-millionaire entertainers, athletes, senators and a president admit that they’ve given their kids “the talk”.

Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley, became the poster mother for what would balloon into legions of black mothers whose children were, and still are, senselessly killed in America for being black.

Emmett Till and his mother Mamie Elizabeth Till

America is a country of civilized, educated people who blatantly deny evidence of racial disparity, bias, and discrimination. That tells me that no matter how obvious the problem, things will not change. As America stays divided there will always be half who refuse to see the truth. Therein lies the problem. Every eye must open and every tongue cry out, “We see this injustice. Stop!”

Sixty-five years have passed, and I still remember the face of young Emmett Till. It was 1955. I was 15 years old — just a year older than him. What happened that summer in Money, Mississippi, and the months that followed — the recanted accusation, the sham trial, the dreaded verdict — shocked the country to its core. And it helped spur a series of non-violent events by everyday people who demanded better from our country. 

Despite real progress, I can’t help but think of young Emmett today as I watch video after video after video of unarmed Black Americans being killed, and falsely accused. My heart breaks for these men and women, their families, and the country that let them down — again. My fellow Americans, this is a special moment in our history. Just as people of all faiths and no faiths, and all backgrounds, creeds, and colors banded together decades ago to fight for equality and justice in a peaceful, orderly, non-violent fashion, we must do so again.

To the rioters here in Atlanta and across the country: I see you, and I hear you. I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness. Justice has, indeed, been denied for far too long. Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way. Organize. Demonstrate. Sit-in. Stand-up. Vote. Be constructive, not destructive. History has proven time and again that non-violent, peaceful protest is the way to achieve the justice and equality that we all deserve. 

Our work won’t be easy — nothing worth having ever is — but I strongly believe, as Dr. King once said, that while the arc of the moral universe is long, it bends toward justice.”

Senator John Lewis
Senator John Lewis receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

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Educator, Author, Blogger, and supporter of Independent Writers. One mystery novel, The Neon Houses, http://amzn.to/2kSqdPX. Find me on Twitter @boom_lyn.

19 thoughts on “I, Too, Remember Emmett Till #BlackHistoryMonth

  1. Linda, thank you for this post and reminding us of the words of a great American hero. It is so sad to realize how much senseless hate still exists in our society. Let us hope that there are enough people of good will to someday overcome the hate and move forward toward justice.

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  2. Linda, I was seven years old and I had just asked my father, who was from the south (my mother was from the north) what a sign meant when we drove by a water fountain in Bristol VA/TN. The sign said, “Coloreds Only.” When he explained it to me, I said, “But that’s not fair!” He told me, “Well, that’s the way it is.” I never forgot the photo of Emmett Till that appeared in Time magazine and how much courage his mother had to insist that he have an open casket. When we see these young Black people being killed at the hands of the police, it’s equivalent in my mind to what those people did to Emmett and his mother, equivalent to lynching, equivalent to torture. I have just finished reading the book, “Caste.” Heavy reading. Necessary reading. Heartbreaking reading. John Lewis’s words are still inspiring and hopeful. Thank you.

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  3. Thank you, Linda, for sharing the powerful and very wise words of Senator John Lewis. The ugliness of the few greatly impacts the whole and therein lies one of the burdens of the sin of racism. It is pernicious. We’ve made progress, but not enough. May our daily actions and our prayers lift the hearts and open eyes. 💗

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  4. Linda thank you for reminding us how outrageous and appalling this killing was. I never understood how someone could do such a horrible act and sleep at night. I was a young girl and my mother had to console me and help me through the nightmares I started experiencing. Time has not healed my soul, it just helped me come to terms with it. Anyone who can justify murder like this, of a young boy, must have forgotten the 10 commandments of God.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I feel that same grief, Shirley. Evil like that is soulless. Before Trump I thought there weren’t a whole lot of those kinds of people, but Trump brought them out of hiding. Thanks for sharing.🤗

      Liked by 1 person

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