Aug. 28, 1955: The day Emmett Till launched a movement

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Aug. 28, 1955: The day Emmett Till launched a movement

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In this Sept. 6, 1955, photo, Mamie Till Mobley weeps at her son’s funeral in Chicago. Emmett Till was so badly beaten that his body was not recognizable. But his mother insisted on an open casket so the world could see the horrors of racism. (AP Photo/Chicago Sun-Times)

Few dates outside of Christmas, Thanksgiving or Independence Day mean anything, especially if they are random.

On that day in 1955, a 14-year-old boy was snatched out of his bed in Money, Miss., by a group of white men. The “crime” that he had committed was allegedly flirting with a white woman.

By the time Emmett Till’s battered body washed up three days later in the Tallahatchie River, his death – according to many historians – would spark the beginning of the modern civil rights movement. Till’s mother would insist on having an open casket at her son’s funeral, so that the world could witness the horror.

A 10-year-old Shirley Franklin was living in Philadelphia at the time and said Till’s murder radicalized her.

“We talked about it as a family, especially his mother’s decision to have an open casket,” said Franklin, who would go on to become the mayor of Atlanta. “I couldn’t imagine a child being killed and what the impact of having an open casket would mean.”

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