During the month of October, TILL will open in AMC Theatres and will show audiences one of the most tragic yet transformative periods in the American Civil Rights movement: the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Chicagoan who fell victim to the racism of the American South while visiting family in Mississippi. The movie, which sees Jalyn Hall portray the young boy, also focuses on how the tragedy impacted his mother, Mamie Till Mobley, played by Danielle Deadwyler, and the great strides she made in her efforts to prevent something like this from happening to other sons and daughters.
The story of Mamie Till Mobley is one of the more fascinating tales in 20th-century American history and it is one that shows just how far someone will go to find something meaningful in tragedy. In the years following her son’s murder, Till Mobley, whose family helped friends and family find a new home in Chicago during the “Great Migration”, spent decades ushering in change, leading righteous movements, and educating countless children in the public school system and beyond.
Here is the impact of Mamie Till Mobley…
An Open Casket Sparks A Movement
There is a pivotal moment in the TILL trailer where Mamie Till Mobley is shown her son’s body and asked if he should be cleaned up for the funeral, but instead of cleaning his wounds or pursuing a closed-casket ceremony, the grieving mother insists on an open-casket so the world can see what they did to her boy. This incredibly powerful scene is adapted from Till’s 1955 funeral where his mother allowed the thousands of mourners to see the beaten, drowned, and disfigured body of her teenage son.
The Washington Post reported that in the aftermath of her son’s murder, Till Mobley called the Chicago Defender, a national African American newspaper as well as publications like Ebony and Jet magazine to have reporters come to the funeral and see the brutality for themselves. And they did.
Following the funeral, which saw more than 50,000 people come pay their respects to the young boy, those newspapers and magazines published the photos, according to PBS. The death of Emmett Till and the crusade by his mother helped spark the American Civil Rights movement that would lead to radical change throughout the country the following decade, and the impact is still felt nearly 70 years later.
Taking Her Son’s Story On A 33-City Tour
After seeing her son buried and not get the justice he so rightfully deserved when the men accused in his murder were found not guilty, Mamie Till Mobley took her sadness and anger and channeled it to tell his story across the country. According to the New York Historical Society, Till Mobley, two days removed from the end of the trial, spoke in front of 10,000 people at a protest in Harlem that was attended by some of the biggest figures in the movement at the time. But this was just the precursor of things to come for the grieving mother and budding Civil Rights icon.
In the wake of her Harlem speech, Till Mobley went on tour with the NAACP, which had organized a series of events to tell her late son’s story and raise awareness for similar cases happening in the United States. This month-long tour would take Till Mobley to 33 cities in 19 states where she spoke about Emmett’s death and how it angered her into making a change.
The tour was a success as it helped shed light on the story and went on to inspire others to make the change. Figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis would later point out how much of an impact the death of Emmett Till had on the Civil Rights movement.
Educating Chicago Students For Decades
In the years following the death of her son, Mamie Till Mobley turned her attention to education. According to Dramatic Publishing, which published two plays written by the civil rights figure, Till Mobley attended the Chicago Teachers College in 1956, and began teaching elementary school in the Chicagoland area less than four years later. Over the course of 23 years, Till Mobley taught countless schoolchildren and furthered her own education, pursuing a masters degree from Loyola University to better help serve the public.
Following her death in January 2003, the Illinois State Senate adopted a resolution honoring her life and legacy, stating that Till Mobley helped renew an interest in academics and the self-worth of three generations of children in the Chicago public school system. The resolution also drew attention to Till Mobley’s work with her church and local community.
Mamie Till Mobley’s story is one of both tragedy and triumph, and continues to inspire people around the country and abroad with her message of hope and change. Check showtimes to see TILL at an AMC Theatre near you.