A casket is an unusual item to display in a museum. Most people visit museums not to dwell on death but to learn about what people did while alive. But there are times when a person's death itself leaves an impact on history. Such is the case of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old from Chicago who was tortured and murdered by white supremacists in Mississippi on Aug. 28, 1955.
Many Americans do not remember Till as a carefree, smiling teen but as a brutally disfigured civil rights martyr. Once a person has seen Till's disfigured face inside his casket, it is impossible to forget.
That's why the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, which will open in Washington, D.C., next month, will feature Till's casket among its exhibits. The display will give visitors to the museum the opportunity to hear an audio recording of Till's mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, tell her son's story and why she decided to shake up the civil rights movement by holding an open casket viewing and showing the world just how brutally Blacks were treated in America.
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