Artistic Expression

In the decades following the Emmett Till murder, various poems, novels and autobiographical writings have memorialized the tragic death of this fourteen-year-old African American boy. Through this means, writers have been able to tell the story powerfully and illustrate how it has affected their own lives. Several of these artistic and literary creations have been reprinted in books on the Till case. Clenora Hudson-Weems, in Emmett Till: The Sacrificial Lamb of the Civil Rights Movement (Troy, Michigan: Bedford Publishers, 1994), published four samples in a chapter titled “Artistic Response.” Christopher Metress included the most complete collection in two chapters of The Emmett Till Lynching: A Documentary History (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2002).  I have included samples of the various poems, short stories and memoirs, as well as reviews of the novels and play that were inspired by the case. While not all of the selections I have included are found in Metress’s work, readers are encouraged to consult that volume, pages 225-345, for the most inclusive collection of the various treasures inspired by the story of Emmett Till. For more on the effect of the Till case on the literary mind, see Harriet Pollack and Christopher Metress, editors, Emmett Till in Literary Memory and Imagination (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008).

Memoirs

Anne Moody from Coming of Age in Mississippi

John Edgar Wideman "The Killing of Black Boys"

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from Black Profiles in Courage: A Legacy of African American Achievement

Myrlie Evers Williams from For Us the Living

 

Poetry

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan

The Lovesong of Emmett Till by Anthony Walton

A Bronzeville Mother and The Last Quatrain by Gwendolyn Brooks

Mississippi—1955 by Langston Hughes

 

Short-Stories

"Lost Note," by Arthenia J. Bates

 

Emmett Till