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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Emmett Till Exhibit Comes to DC Public Library

CW: This article references racism and racial violence. Please refer to the end of the article for on- and off-campus resources.

An exhibit that features photos, sketches and relics from the life of Emmett Till opened with a special event at the D.C. Public Library’s (DCPL) Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library on Jan. 26. 

The “Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley: Let the World See,” exhibit, which comes as a result of a partnership between the Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley Institute, the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, the Till family and The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, tells the story of the life and murder of Till, a 14-year-old boy who was abducted and lynched in 1955, and Till-Mobley, his mother. The exhibit features quotations, first-hand accounts, photos, videos and interactive installments like a family guide, which advises families on how to navigate the emotionally difficult exhibit with children, and a reflection area dedicated to helping visitors process what they see.

The exhibit covers ways community and family members have worked to keep Till’s memory alive, how attendees can commit to social justice in their communities and how recent cases of vandalized historical markers dedicated to Till demonstrate how important it is to continue sharing Till’s story from the perspective of his community, according to a DCPL press release.

Patrick Weems, the executive director of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Sumner, Miss., a center located near the site of Till’s death dedicated to telling Till’s story as a means of restorative justice, said the exhibit is especially meaningful given that the center’s original historical marker, a silver plaque that marked the place where Till’s body was removed from the river, was shot and vandalized for the third time just a few years ago. 

“This newly created exhibit helps us explore why it is so difficult to honor the memory of a 14-year-old child,” Weems wrote in a statement shared with The Hoya. “We believe that telling the truth about these acts of violence and injustice is the first step towards racial healing.”

Till-Mobley insisted on an open-casket funeral to shed light on the brutal, violent nature of her son’s murder, according to the press release

The traveling exhibit had its debut at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis before moving to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and finally reaching Washington, D.C., where it will remain on display until March 12.

The exhibit will then travel to Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson, Miss., the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, the Atlanta History Center and the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn., before it will be housed permanently in the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, which is located near the site Till’s murder trial took place in Sumner, Miss. 

DCPL/ | DC Public Library’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library opened an exhibit on the history of Emmett Till, which will be open until Mar. 12.

Richard Reyes-Gavilan, DCPL’s executive director, said the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library hopes the exhibit will remind people of the continuous violence still happening years after Till’s death.

“We are honored to work with this incredible team of institutions as well as Emmett Till’s family to elevate this harrowing story and call attention to the ongoing threats of violence to which Black boys remain vulnerable,” Reyes-Gavilan wrote in a media guide that DCPL’s media relations manager George Williams shared with The Hoya. “Telling the story of Emmett and his mother, along with the stories of other real people from the past and present, gives the Library an opportunity to provide space for reflection, dialogue, and learning.” 

Two installations will stand alongside the Till exhibit in the library. The first is entitled “Local Connections: The Till Case Reaches DC,” and it displays the role that the D.C. NAACP, a famous civil rights organization, and Black reporters in the District played in telling Till’s story. The second, “Mothers of the Movement,” highlights D.C. police brutality and the work mothers and families have done to fight for justice in the footsteps of Till-Mobley.

Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., Till’s cousin and the last living witness to his abduction, said he applauds the curators of the exhibit for preserving Till’s life and legacy from his family’s perspective.  

“Your dedication and pursuit of social justice and racial reconciliation resonate with my commitment to the truth, forgiveness and reconciliation,” Parker said in the media guide. 

Parker said he hopes visitors will come away with an understanding of ways to combat racial injustices in modern society. 

“The thing I want families to take away from this is that we can learn from the past on what not to do, and we can improve on race relations at this time,” Parker said. “Emmett Till’s story is not a pleasant story — it’s not a pretty story, but it has to be told. It must be told because we need to know the truth.”

Resources: On-campus resources include Health Education Services (202-687-8949) and Counseling and Psychiatric Service (202-687-6985); additional off-campus resources include the D.C. Peace Team Anti-Racism & Equity Initiative and the D.C. Government Trauma Survivors Support Group.

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