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A Witness to Emmett Till's Abduction Shares His Story

With the passage of the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, Into America speaks with the last living relative to witness to the boy’s abduction.

About this episode:

Emmett Till’s lynching is credited as the spark that set off the Civil Rights Movement. In 1955, the 14-year-old boy was visiting family in Mississippi when he was kidnapped and murdered for whistling at a white woman. Days later his bloated body was dragged out of the Tallahatchie River and sent home to his mother, Mamie Till Mobley, in Chicago. When pictures of his mutilated face were published around the country, it shocked the national consciousness, bringing people off the sidelines and into the fight to recognize Black Americans’ basic humanity.

Congress first considered antilynching legislation at the turn of the twentieth century. On January 20th, 1900, Representative George Henry White of North Carolina, the only Black member of Congress at the time, introduced a bill that would have subjected people involved in mob violence to the potential of capital punishment. Since then, antilynching legislation has been introduced in Congress more than 200 times. It had failed every time.

That changed last week. At the end of March, President Biden signed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act into law, making lynching a federal hate crime. Present at the ceremony was Emmett Till’s cousin, Rev. Wheeler Parker. Rev. Parker travelled from Chicago to Mississippi with Emmett Till in 1955, and he is the last living relative to have witnessed the boy’s kidnapping. This week on Into America, he shares his story.

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Find the transcript here.

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