‘Let the People See’ Dives Deep into Murder of Emmett Till


The basic facts of the Emmett Till story are well-known.

In 1955, a 14-year-old African-American boy from Chicago visits his family in Mississippi – and is brutally murdered after a white woman accuses him of whistling at her.

The suspects were acquitted and then publicly admitted their guilt. Till’s mother famously called for an open casket at the funeral, saying “Let the people see what they did to my boy.”

That phrase inspired the title of a new book about the murder and its impact. It’s called, “Let The People See: The Story of Emmett Till.” 

The author, Loyola University Chicago historian Elliot Gorn, points out that while the gruesome photo of Till’s mutilated face was seen widely in black publications of the day, including Chicago-based Jet magazine and the Chicago Defender, it did not appear in mainstream media until a 1985 documentary on WMAQ-TV in Chicago. The producer of that documentary was Rich Samuels, who would later become a longtime correspondent on “Chicago Tonight.” Segments of the documentary were soon broadcast on the “Today” show, and then the 14-part PBS series “Eyes on the Prize” began with the story of Till, including the image of his open casket.

Gorn joins us to discuss his new book. Read the introduction to the book here.


Related stories:

Emmett Till’s Family Reacts to Accuser’s Confession, 60 Years Later

60 Years Later: The Murder of Emmett Till


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