More than six decades after the murder of a teenager became a rallying point for the civil rights movement, his memory is being preserved through the arts. Emmett Till is the inspiration for both an exhibit and a dramatic production at ECU this month.
The African-American teen was beaten and shot to death in Mississippi in August 1955 after reportedly flirting with Carolyn Bryant, a white store clerk. Till’s body was found in the Tallahatchie River.
Till’s name was in the headlines again last month after a photo surfaced showing three Ole Miss students posing with guns beside Till’s bullet-riddled memorial. The memorial sign has been repeatedly vandalized and stolen since it was erected in 2007.
“Obviously it’s very relevant if you watch any of the headlines,” Michael Crane, producing artistic director of the S. Rudolph Alexander Performing Arts Series at ECU, said of Till’s name. “(The play) pairs with Joyner Library’s National Endowment for the Humanities on the Road Exhibition ‘For All the World to See.’ You can really frame the performance with what you can see there and just kind of get a big picture (of racial struggles in the 1950s and 1960s).”