Emmett Till and the Impact of Images

Photos of Murdered Youth Spurred Civil Rights Activism

Emmett Till

hide captionChicago native Emmett Till, 14, was murdered in Money, Miss., where he went to visit his great-uncle.

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In 1955, Jet magazine published photographs of the mutilated body of 14-year-old Chicago resident Emmett Till, who was brutally murdered in Mississippi. Many civil rights activists say seeing those pictures both haunted and inspired them. NPR's Noah Adams reports on the decision to publish the photos and the wide-ranging effect they had.

Margaret Block, a long-time activist in Cleveland, Miss., was a young girl when the pictures were published. "I remember not being able to sleep when I saw [the photos]," she says. "Can you imagine being 11 years old and seeing something like that for the first time in your life and it being close to home? The death of Emmett Till touched us, it touched everybody. And we always said if we ever got a chance to do something, we were going to change things around here."

For Charles Cobb, a Washington, D.C., journalist and author, the photos were also a catalyst to activism. Cobb first saw the pictures when he was 12 years old. He went on to develop the "Freedom Schools" that mobilized black voters throughout Mississippi in 1964.

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