Celerity Nascent Management’s decision to ban the Emmett Till poem won’t diminish Emmett’s stature in American history. His murder had enormous historical significance and impact. For one, it energized the modern day civil rights movement, months before Rosa Parks decided to not give up her seat on that bus in Montgomery Alabama. Emmett’s murder had an enormous impact on African-American parents, young people and on American culture in general:
The murder of Emmett Till was felt deeply by African-Americans, civil rights activists and many others. Artistic works drawing on the incident include the first play by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, poems by Gwendolyn Brooks Langston Hughes, , and Audre Lorde, and a song by Bob Dylan called “The Death of Emmett Till.”
The James Baldwin play “Blues for Mister Charlie” is loosely based on the Emmett Till murder case. Well known legend and boxer Muhammad Ali, 13 years old at the time of the murder, said in an interview that the news of the Till murder had a profound effect on him and how he viewed his place in society and whites.
The 1990’s Alternative Rock band Emmet Swimming is named after Emmett Till. According to the band, “the idea of the name was basically that a 14-year-old boy should be swimming in the river, not dying in it.”
Other more recent fictionalized accounts include two award-winning novels: Bebe Moore Campbell’s Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine (1992) and Lewis Nordan’s Wolf Whistle (1993). The 2003 rap song “Through the Wire” by Kanye West uses the image of Till’s mutilated face to remind others of his physical appearance after a near-fatal car accident, demonstrating that after fifty plus years the murder is still firmly etched in our memory and American history.
We should never forget! We should indeed celebrate the triumphs but we cannot do that without remembering the tragedy. However uncomfortable…Emmett’s case and this part of our history will not be erased!