By Nadia Johnson
“What happens to one of us had better be the business of us all”
–Mamie Till Mobley—
For those of you who may not be familiar with the story of Emmett Till, let me give you a brief history lesson. This movie is about the real life events that happened in the summer of 1955 in Money, Mississippi.
Emmett was a bright, fun loving, curious fourteen-year-old who was from Chicago. He was only visiting his cousins down in Money, Mississippi when his ordinary life ignited the modern Civil Rights Movement. It was while he was in Money, Mississippi that he come into encounter with a white grocery clerk woman, whom he paid two compliments too. One compliment he stated how she looked like a movie star and the other was when he whistled at her. Now in today’s world most women would have brushed it off and kept on with their day, but this is Mississippi in 1955 and these two compliments caused him his life.
Needless to say, in the movie it how all this unfolds from when he went down to visit his cousins to the incident that I described above. It was a little after the incident that Emmett was kidnapped from his uncle’s home at night by the husband of the grocery store clerk. By the time Emmett’s mother gets the news of the events that had taken placed in Mississippi involving her child, Emmett had been reported missing. Immediately, Emmett’s mother launched a full investigation with the help of the NAACP and other black leaders in Chicago to find him. However, when it was all said and done Emmett was found murder.
It is what Emmett’s mother decided to do after she received the news that changed history. Most mother’s once they got their son’s body back from down south would have just buried him, but not Mamie. She suspected that the authorities in Mississippi were hiding something and sure enough when she opened up the box he was shipped back to Chicago in the truth was absolutely horrifying.
The movie shows how a mother takes her grief and turn it into a weapon. For in order to get justice for her son, not only does Mamie have an open coffin funeral showing the horrific mutilations of her son’s body, but also how she is able to get a police warrant for the men that were found responsible for both the kidnapping and murder of her son. She was also able to press charges against them in a court of law and have a trail, all of which was virtual near impossible to do in 1955. She is further helped by soon to be future leaders of the Civil Rights Movement like Mayer Evans who was killed for fighting for voting rights for black some eight years in Mississippi after Emmett’s death. Even though she was denied justice for her child her courage is still bearing fruit today.
The film not only shows what happened when hatred is allowed to win, but also how her son’s death helped passed the 1954 voting act for blacks. Another law that came into place because of her son’s death is the newly signed Anti- lynching bill that was passed this past March. Even though justice was denied to both Mamie and her son, the fight that she leads to get equality and justice for her son still rages on today. It is sad to say that the grocery store clerk women who is still alive has not been put on trial or sent to prison for her part in the death of Emmett, which I think is truly sad.