College students present chilling "Emmett Till memorial service"

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Local college students heard a dramatic presentation Thursday about an infamous racial killing in Mississippi.

All week, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College has presented a series of civil rights exhibits and speeches to commemorate the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior.

One highlight was the dramatic remembrance of a black teenager who was brutally murdered in Mississippi.

"And as he boards the train, she gives him his deceased father's class ring as a token of responsibility. And kisses him goodbye," said Brennan Ladner, who began sharing the story before a class filled with students.

That was the final moment Mamie Till saw her son alive.

"Emmett Till was only 14 when he went to Mississippi to visit his great uncle, Moses Wright, a preacher and share cropper," Ladner continued.

Young Emmett unknowingly signed his own death warrant when he allegedly whistled at a white woman.

Ladner calmly related the facts, as the drama began to build. He recalled how the Chicago teenager was pursued by two white men, intent on revenge.

"Armed with .45 Colt pistols and flashlights, they asked to speak to the boy from Chicago," said  Ladner.

He recounted the harrowing tale to an attentive audience of students; a chilling crime that occurred decades before most were born.

"They took turns pistol whipping him. Beating him and yelling at him. Trying to crack him," he said.

The young man from Chicago was courageous and tough. Despite continued beatings, Emmett Till refused to break.

"Milam's bullet entered at Emmett's right ear," said Ladner, as he carefully recounted every detail of the killing.

Till's body was then tied to a stolen cotton gin fan and tossed in the river. His captors were afraid.

"But they weren't afraid of getting caught with a badly beaten 14 year old boy. They were afraid of being accused of stealing a broken cotton gin fan," said Ladner.

"Emmett Lewis Till is an example of immortality. And shall be remembered by most for the smiles and laughter he brought to those who knew him," said Jesse Robinson, who helped deliver the dramatic presentation.

"Everybody who is standing, please come. View," said another student, in a solemn voice.

The drama includes a reenactment of Emmett Till's open casket funeral service. His mother wanted the nation to see his beaten, disfigured face.

"I loved it. It almost brought a tear to my eye. 'Cause it's something I've been hearing about all my life. It's just crazy how it was like that. And it wasn't that many years ago when we were going through that," said Latisha Robertson.

The decision by Emmett Till's mother to hold an open casket service delivered a significant boost to the civil rights movement. Over a three day period, more than 50,000 people viewed the body of the badly beaten boy. A disturbing, graphic picture of his battered face appeared in several newspapers of the day.