Frank Phillips College hosts Emmett Till exhibit

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Frank Phillips College hosts Emmett Till exhibit

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At critical moments in human history, events can occur that cause certain people to transcend their own existence to become symbols for something greater than themselves. For the Civil Rights Movements in America, one such figure was Emmett Till. In the summer of 1955, the small town of Sumner, MS, never expected to be the center of national and international attention and yet it would take little more than a month for the world to come to know the small Delta town and the boy named Emmett.

Initially, Mississippians condemned Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam for their actions, but as word of the murder spread throughout the nation, attitudes began to change. Mississippians felt the entire state was condemned for the actions of two of its residents. Furthermore, a story describing the murderers’ motivations began to spread and to define the case to many. Carolyn Bryant, wife of Roy Bryant, told of inappropriate behavior from Emmett toward her and of a whistle at her. In the segregated South, such interaction between a black male and a while female was taboo. The fact that most referred to the case as the Wolf Whistle murder illustrates its importance in the minds of many.

Despite valiant efforts by the prosecution, Milam and Bryant were acquitted of any crime and released. The outrage around the country was instantaneous. Emmett Till had become a symbol for a fledgling Civil Rights Movement.

Throughout this exhibit, located in the J.W. Dillard Library at Frank Phillips College, the voice of 1955s citizens of America, Europe, and Asia sound off, offering their opinions and views on the murder and trail of young Emmett Till and his murderers. The hand-written and typed letters placed throughout the exhibit offer a glimpse into the opinions of individuals, representing only a portion of those letters written to District Attorney Gerald Chatham. The newspaper clippings offer glaring headlines as newspapermen, radio, and television broadcasts kept pace of every new development and detail.

The exhibit consists of ten panels, each with its own theme. Please take this opportunity to visit the exhibition and read the text provided on each panel and discover for yourself what happened during those few short weeks.

J.W. Dillard Library hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about the Emmett Till exhibition, call 806-457-4200.

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Frank Phillips College hosts Emmett Till exhibit