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Freedom is NEVER Free. It is always paid for on the backs of those who march, fight, negotiate, and die for our rights. From the birth of America to the Civil Rights Movement, the cost of freedom has been staggeringly high. And the cost of justice and fairness exacts an even higher cost.
Today marks the beginning of a week of tributes to the foot soldiers who paved the way for freedom and justice in the Civil Rights Movement. This weekend commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and next Wednesday marks the 58th Anniversary of the brutal murder of Emmett Till. This December marks the 58th anniversary of the beginning of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. ALL of these events come 150 years AFTER the Emancipation Proclamation...reminding us that our fight for Freedom never ended.
Our special guest today, Deborah Watts, will share her family’s story as she leads the organization that keeps her cousin’s memory alive...The Emmett Till Legacy Foundation.
We’ll also pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Dr. Ralph David Abernathy, Dorothy Height, A. Philip Randolph and ALL of the 250,000 foot soldiers who defied the odds at the 1963 March On Washington.
Who Was Emmett Till?
The story of Emmett Till resonates among the lives of Americans as the start of the Civil Rights Movement. Emmett Louis Till was born on July 25, 1941 in Chicago, Illinois and was murdered at the age of 14 on August 28, 1955. The reason for his death: reportedly whistling at a white woman. The main suspects were acquitted in only 67 minutes by an all white jury, which outraged the people of America and Europe.
To illustrate how brutal and cruel the murder of her son was, Mamie Till-Mosely held a public funeral service with an open casket. Buried in Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois, Till's body was exhumed for autopsy when the murder case was reopened in May of 2004. Since his body was reburied in a new casket, the Till family donated the original casket to the Smithsonian Institution.
Who was Emmett Till?
Emmett Louis “Bobo” Till, Born on July 25, 1941 in Chicago's Cook County Hospital to Louis and Mamie Till. At the age of 14, Emmett traveled to visit relatives at the home of Mose Wright in Money Mississippi on August 21, 1955. After going to Bryant’s Grocery and Meat market (owned by a white couple Roy and Carolyn Bryant) for refreshments, Emmett purchases bubblegum and was heard by the kids who were there with him, whistle at Carolyn Bryant. On August 28, 1955, at about 2:30 a.m., Roy Bryant, Carolyn's husband, and his half brother J. W. Milam, kidnap Emmett Till from Mose Wright's home. They brutally beat him, took him to the edge of the Tallahatchie River, shot him in the head, fastened a large metal fan used for ginning cotton to his neck with barbed wire and pushed his body into the river. They were arrested on Aug 29 and held in jail without bond on kidnapping charges. Just 3 days after the kidnapping Emmett’s badly decomposed body was pulled for the river and identified only by the ring that he was wearing.
In summary, Emmett’s lynching, brutal murder, his open casket funeral, the published photos of his corpse in Jet and local newspapers, the acquittal of the murderers who later confessed, shocked and outraged people across the country and even the world. Although, you won’t find Emmett Till’s name and story in the timeline of American History, it represents one of the most horrific inhumane injustices committed against an innocent young person in this country. It also represents the spark that ignited the civil rights movement and an end to the racist Jim Crow laws, lynching and other injustices committed against African Americans across the country.
March On Washington
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom or "The Great March on Washington", as styled in a sound recording released after the event, was one of the largest political rallies for human rights in United States history and called for civil and economic rights for African Americans. It took place in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, August 28, 1963. Martin Luther King, Jr., standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech advocating racial harmony during the march.
The march was organized by a group of civil rights, labor, and religious organizations, under the theme "jobs, and freedom". Estimates of the number of participants varied from 200,000 to 300,000. Observers estimated that 75–80% of the marchers were black and the rest were non-black.
The march is widely credited with helping to pass the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965).
Can't attend this weekend's March on Washington? You can participate virtually!
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Carole Copeland Thomas is a 27 year speaker, trainer and consultant specializing in global diversity, empowerment, multiculturalism and leadership issues.