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Emmett Till whistled at a white woman in Money, Miss. On Aug. 28, 1955, two white men dragged the 14-year-old African-American from his uncle’s house. The men pummeled his face to the point of disfigurement. At the Tallahatchie River, Till was then shot in the head and tossed into the water, and after 67 days, the all-white jury acquitted Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam.
On Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Browning Center’s Austad Auditorium, Simeon Wright will speak on his cousin Emmett Till’s behalf. Wright was sleeping in the same bed as Till when his abductors came for him. Wright’s testimony of the events, from witnessing his cousin whistle at Carolyn Bryant to seeing his father testify against the white assailants, will be part of his speech on Tuesday, along with what the contemporary complications of this event and others like it include. The incident in Money helped fuel the civil rights movement for African-American equality.
“One of the reasons why this lecture is important,” said Forrest Crawford, professor of teacher education and assistant to the president for diversity at Weber State University, “(is that) we have a generation of students who may not be familiar (with) the case. This tragedy helped to spark the modern civil rights movement, and it reminds you what happens when you are a bystander on the fence of a tragedy. I think people need to understand this Emmett Till trial as a blueprint on how justice can be usurped if we don’t act. When there are injustices and atrocities, we have an obligation to not be pacifists of some things. We have the right and obligation to speak to unfairness and unbalances instead of being passive sideliners. These events not only victimize the individual — they victimize a community. They victimize humanity.”
Megan Gour, assistant to the director of diversity and a senior psychology major at WSU, said having a relative of Till come speak will be more effective than written accounts would be.
“I think that the Emmett Till case is something that made a huge impact in our society, in our world,” she said. “And it’s very cool to have someone who is related to him come tell their personal story of what happened, because when you can hear someone who lived, that is so much better than reading a book or seeing a movie.”
Wright is also the author of “Simeon’s Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till.” Wright will sign books before the presentation at 6 p.m. in the Austad Auditorium. Visitors will be able to purchase the book for $14 at the event.
“It is a great way to remember the people that sacrificed for changes to be made,” said Sandy Weber, community chair for diversity and unity at WSU. “Not just changes based on race, but a lot long line of differences.”
At 10:30 a.m. in Room 316 of the Shepherd Union Building, a local scholar of the Till case, Devin Anderson, will present his research. These events are part of honorary the annual Black History Month.
“We encourage people to come out and listen, but also see the traveling exhibition now on display in the bridge of the union building,” Crawford said. “The exhibition is an educational dimension to this program.”