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Traveling Exhibit Honoring the Child Whose Murder Brought Awareness to Widespread Racism and Cruelty

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 1, 2022 

Heartbreak and sorrow, anger and outrage due to racism have haunted this country for decades. However, communities like Tallahatchie County, Mississippi are telling the truth of their past as they make a commitment toward racial healing and justice and as they work to provide a model of how to heal the nation. This fall (2022), a vandalized roadside sign that marked a child’s murder will travel across the country, including to The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis in Indiana, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama, Two Mississippi Museums in Mississippi, DuSable Museum of African American History in Illinois, and the Atlanta History Center in Georgia. The subject matter is difficult, but the creators of the exhibit, the Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley Institute, the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, the Till family, and The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, believe it is vital to educate families on what has happened in the past in hopes of fostering racial harmony and reconciliation today. 
 
Emmett Till, a Black 14-year-old youth from Chicago, was visiting family in Money, Mississippi when he was kidnapped from his great-uncle’s home and savagely beaten and murdered by a group of white men on August 28, 1955. Weighted by a cotton gin fan, his lifeless body was thrown into the Tallahatchie River and was found three days later. His torture and murder were retaliation for violating the social mores of the Deep South by whistling at a white woman in a grocery store. Two white men accused of brutally murdering the young 14-year-old Emmett were acquitted by an all-white jury in 67 minutes.   

For Emmett’s funeral, his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, insisted that the coffin containing his body be left open.  She wanted the world to see what was unjustly done to her son. Over 100,000 people viewed his body at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ in Chicago over three days. Photographs of his mutilated body circulated internationally, and people stood up who had never stood up before. Emmett’s story and Mamie’s activism served as catalysts to the Civil Rights Movement.

Fifty years after Emmett’s murder, the Emmett Till Memorial Commission formed to acknowledge the county’s role in the miscarriage of justice for Emmett Till and to work towards racial healing. In 2007, citizens of Tallahatchie County offered an apology to the Till family on the steps of the courthouse where two of the murderers walked free. The Commission installed a series of commemorative signs throughout Tallahatchie County acknowledging the role of those sites in Emmett’s murder, including at the site where Emmett’s body may have been removed from the Tallahatchie River. These signs have been repeatedly vandalized, including with acid, spray paint, and bullet holes. However, the community has continued to unite to replace them, refusing to let the tragedy of Emmett Till’s death go unacknowledged and unspoken.
 
The Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley Institute, the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, the Till family, and The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis are creating a national touring exhibit to share this tragic story of American racism—past and present—and the story of communities committed to racial healing.

“I applaud the Children’s Museum and the Emmett Till Interpretive Center for their outstanding achievements and their commitment to preserving the legacy of my cousin, Emmett Till,” said Reverend Wheeler Parker, last living witness to Emmett’s kidnapping. “My heart is overjoyed with the launch of each new initiative. Congratulations on the awesome traveling museum project. Your dedication and pursuit of social justice and racial reconciliation resonate with my commitment to the truth, forgiveness and reconciliation.”
 
“The Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley Institute is pleased to join with the Children’s Museum’s traveling exhibit that tells the true story of Emmett Till,” said Dr. Marvel Parker, Executive Director of the Till Institute. “The goal of our organization is to promote the legacy of Emmett Till and to continue the social activism of Mamie Till-Mobley in her pursuit of social justice and education that provides cultural socialization.” 

“We are honored to work with this incredible team including Emmett’s family to elevate this important story and bring attention to widespread racism that continues today.” said Jennifer Pace Robinson, president and CEO of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. “Using important stories of real people from the past, we want to provide a safe space for families to have critical conversations so they can better understand the key conditions that create change today and give them a starting point in determining positive ways in which they can personally make a difference through collaborative learning and discussing problem solving together.” 
 
A key artifact included in the exhibit is a roadside plaque commemorating the site where Emmett’s body may have been recovered from the Tallahatchie River. The sign featured in the exhibit made headlines after a group of students from the University of Mississippi posed in front of it with rifles and then posted their photo on Instagram in March of 2019. The signs at this particular spot have been repeatedly vandalized and have been replaced three times. The fourth sign installed to honor Emmett’s life is a bulletproof sign equipped with security cameras and alarms.  

“Despite the repeated vandalism of these signs, our community has united again and again to replace them to tell the truth about what happened to Emmett Till,” said Patrick Weems, Executive Director of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Sumner, MS. “We believe that telling the truth about these acts of violence and injustice is the first step towards racial healing. These vandalized signs show just how much further we have to go to combat racism in our country.”

The Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley: Let the World See exhibit will open at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis on September 17, 2022. 
 
Because of the difficult subject matter, this exhibit is recommended for children 10 and older, and those between 10 and 18 years of age should be accompanied by an adult. 

This project was made possible in part by The National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom, the Maddox Foundation, The Institute for Museum and Library Services [MH-249226-OMS-21], and The Historic Preservation Fund and the National Park Service.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is proud to partner with Riley Children’s at Indiana University Health, Old National Bank, and Ice Miller LLP.

About The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is a nonprofit institution committed to creating extraordinary learning experiences across the arts, sciences, and humanities that have the power to transform the lives of children and families. For more information about The Children's Museum, visit www.childrensmuseum.org, follow us on Twitter @TCMIndy, Instagram@childrensmuseum, YouTube.com/IndyTCM, and Facebook.

About the Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley Institute

The Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley Institute, a non-profit organization, is engaged in research and social justice advocacy.  We are dedicated to preserving the memory and historical significance of the life and death of Emmett Louis Till, and preserving the social action legacy of his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to foster educational opportunities and civic engagement among youth.  Our focus is on funding research, education and public programs aimed at encouraging enlightened participation in the democratic process and working to build and maintain a civil society. For more information about the Till Institute, visit www.tillinstitute.org.