Author: Joyce

Emmett Till’s Story of Racial Equality

Emmett Till's Story of Racial Equality

How Hollywood turned a ‘blind eye’ to Emmett Till: Inside a troubled 67-year history of racial segregation in Hollywood

Emmett Till never saw himself as black.

In 1954, the 17-year-old Chicago boy was brutally beaten and raped by three white men. He was 14 years old. He died the next year from complications.

But the story that went around the region had it that, as a black teen, Till, a gifted songwriter and piano player with the name “Emmett Ray” attached to him, was selling his songs to white businesses in search of income.

And it was his mother, Mamie, who had first reported the incident to the Chicago police and had even named the three suspects.

“The three white men were lynched in Mississippi on a suspicion,” Mamie told the Chicago Tribune. “The fact that they were lynched, the fact that [Till] was lynched, and the fact that I have this child who died by his hand — was it my son or not my son?”

Mamie was also devastated, believing her son’s death could have been prevented if authorities had acted sooner. But the story would not be heard until decades later, well after the civil rights movement was underway, and nearly 50 years after Till’s murder.

Mamie Till was not alone in her struggle to fight hate on both sides of the color line. Her story is the latest example of the struggle for racial equality in America; and how Hollywood has been, is and will be a factor in that struggle.

A story of Hollywood

The story of Emmett Till has its roots in a tragic incident that happened three decades before his death.

As Mamie Till described, in the early 1950s, she was visiting a store in Chicago and saw two white men buying a box of cotton balls at a store in a nearby town.

“A man came in and bought four cotton balls and he put them in his pocket,” Mamie told the Chicago Tribune. “He walked out the store with them and he walked down the street, and two

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