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"Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley: Let the World See" Exhibit Comes to DC Public Library's Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

 In 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was kidnapped at gunpoint, then tortured and murdered after having been accused of flirting with a white woman in Mississippi. His mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, insisted on an open-casket funeral to expose the brutality to which her son had been subjected.

"Let the world see what they did to my boy." The world saw.

News coverage of Emmett’s funeral, including the photo of his grief-stricken mother at his casket, served as a catalyst for the Civil Rights movement. Today, nearly 60 years after his murder, racists continue to steal, shoot, and otherwise vandalize the historic markers installed near the Tallahatchie River where Emmett's body was found. 

The exhibit "Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley: Let the World See," which opens at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library on January 27, tells the story of Emmett's murder, his mother's activism, and how that activism continues to inspire a movement today. 

Created by the Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley Institute, the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, the Till family, and The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the exhibit tells five stories:

  • Emmett’s personal story
  • How Mamie Till-Mobley’s brave actions fueled the Civil Rights Movement
  • How a community and family have worked to keep Emmett’s memory alive
  • How the vandalized historic markers connect to us today
  • How attendees can commit to social justice in their communities

Emmett and Mamie Till-Mobley's stories are told with quotations, first-hand accounts, photos, videos, and activities. The exhibit is appropriate for visitors 10 years of age and older. While it includes disturbing graphic images important to the context of the story, visitors will need to voluntarily pull a tab to see those images. This way visitors can decide for themselves whether to include the photographs as part of their exhibition experience. In addition, children and families will be provided a space to reflect on the exhibit's impact on them. Conversational prompts will support opportunities for families to:

  • process the emotional and challenging content of Emmett’s life and murder,
  • consider how it connects to their lives today and 
  • consider how the barriers of racism can be broken down and turned into a bridge to a better future

Launched at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, "Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley: Let the World See" comes to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library after visiting the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama. After it leaves Washington DC, the exhibit will visit Two Mississippi Museums in Mississippi, DuSable Museum of African American History in Illinois, Atlanta History Center in Georgia, and the National Civil Rights Museum in Tennessee. It will ultimately be permanently added to the Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Sumner, Mississippi, near where the murder trial took place.  

As satellite components to the exhibit, items from DC Public Library's People's Archive will be featured in two nearby installations:

  • Within the main exhibit, “Local Connections: “The Till Case Reaches DC” shows the role of local Black reporters and the DC NAACP in ensuring that Emmett’s story was told, using newspaper clippings and historical images and quotes from key civil rights activists.
  • A companion exhibit, “Mothers of the Movement” explores the entwined histories of lynching and police brutality in the D.C. region to raise awareness of the ongoing issue of racial violence in our region and to center the perspectives of mothers and families fighting for justice today. The exhibit picks up on the example set by Mamie Till-Mobley highlighting the work of mothers/women in the DC Metropolitan area. 

"Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley: Let the World See" will be on display in the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library’s Great Hall until March 12. For more information visit dclibrary.org/lettheworldsee

Audiences: All Ages