DSU features exhibit on lynching of Emmett Till

Opening Reception Monday, Sept. 10th

Dakota State University’s Karl E. Mundt Library and Learning Commons will feature an exhibit on the lynching of Emmett Till Sept. 10, 2012 through Oct. 12, 2012. The exhibit includes a variety of programs in the areas of science, art, multi-media and literature from DSU professors and other area and national presenters. The opening reception at the Mundt Library on Monday, Sept. 10th at 6:30 p.m. will feature Devery Anderson, author of the forthcoming book, “The Boy Who Never Died: The Saga of Emmett Till.” This program is made possible in part by Delta State University, the Mississippi Humanities Council under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the South Dakota Humanities Council.

In August of 1955, the saga of Emmett Till began in the town of Money, Miss. where fourteen-year-old Emmett Till whistled at a white woman in a grocery store. Till, an African American boy from Chicago, did not realize that he had violated the unwritten Jim Crow laws of the South. Three days later, two white men found Till, dragged him from his bed in the middle of night, beat and shot him the head.

The men were eventually arrested and charged with the murder of Till, but they were acquitted by an all-white, all-male jury. Shortly after the trial, the defendants told their story to a journalist and relayed a detailed and very gruesome account of how they murdered the teenager.  Till’s death was a major catalyst in the beginning of the civil rights movement.

Although there have been thousands of lynchings of African Americans in the South since the 1890’s, Dr. Kurt Kemper, professor of history at DSU, says there are a few reasons this incident created a shift. “This one struck a chord not only because of the age of the victim, but also because his mother allowed for an open-casket funeral to display his horribly dismembered body, photographs of which appeared in Ebony magazine,” says Kemper. “Hundreds of thousands of white Americans, otherwise unengaged in the Civil Rights struggle, looked at those photographs and simply saw a 14 year-old boy who had been brutally beaten to death, and decided that they could remain unengaged no longer.”

Anderson’s presentation on Monday, Sept. 10th will serve as the opening reception for the event with refreshments at 6:30 p.m. and presentation at 7:00 p.m. in the Mundt Library. According to Anderson’s website, his book is based on hundreds of hours of archival research, sifting through dozens of newspapers, as well as interviews with those who witnessed the case unfold, including Emmett Till’s family members who were with him in Mississippi.

The exhibit will feature programs throughout the months of September and October. These include:

  • South Dakota African American History Museum, “A roundtable Discussion of on Race in Latter 20th Century Eastern S.D.,” Sept. 18th, 4:00 p.m. in the Underground located in the basement of the DSU Trojan Center.
  • DSU assistant professor of sociology, Dr. Viki Johnson, “The Lynching of Emmett Till and Symbolic Interactionism: Individual and Social Interpretations of Violence,” on Sept. 20th, 4:00 p.m. at the Karl E. Mundt Library and Learning Commons.

  • Lindsay Twa, assistant professor of art at Augustana, “Art for Art’s sake is a Luxury and a Lie: The Art of African Americans in an Era of Lynching, Sept. 27th at 4:00 p.m. in the Karl E. Mundt Library and Learning Commons.

  • Jenn Aranda, DSU Diversity Coordinator, “Come meet Jim Crow,” Oct. 1st, 12:00 p.m. in the Underground located in the basement of the DSU Trojan Center.

  • DSU assistant professor of audio production, Nathan Edwards, “Voice of Progress: Inspiring Social Change Through Music in 20th Century America,” Oct. 2nd, 4:00 p.m. in the Science Center Auditorium

  • Dr. Dale Droge, DSU professor of biology, “Science Flunks the Midterm: Eugenics and Racism in 20th Century America,” Oct. 11th, 7:00 p.m. in the Science Center Auditorium.

For more information on the event, please visit the Mundt Library’s Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/inthemundt .

Last Updated: 9/5/12