Aug. 28, 1955: The day Emmett Till launched a movement
For many people, Aug. 28, 2017, marks the return to the work week. Nothing special. Just another Monday.
But for black America, and by cosmic happenstance, Aug. 28 is much more — even if they don’t know it.
On this date in 1955, a 14-year-old black boy was lynched in Mississippi, awakening the country to the horrors of racism.
In 1963, more than 250,000 people gathered in Washington to hear a young preacher talk about freedom, jobs and a dream.
In 2005, hundreds of thousands of people fled the Gulf Coast as a killer hurricane was about to make landfall.
In 2008, a black man stood on a stage in Denver and accepted his party’s nomination for president.
And in 2017, the state will unveil a statue of an African-American hero on the grounds of the state Capitol.
Academy Award-nominated director Ava DuVernay put the pieces together with her short film “August 28: A Day in the Life of a People,” which debuted in 2016 at the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture.
“In my eyes, August 28 tells so much about black history through the lens of one date,” DuVernay said at the time.
Aug. 28, 1955: Money, Miss.
Gary Williams came into this world with as little hope as a black child could expect in 1955. One of seven children born to a General Motors inspector and a housewife in west Baltimore, Williams was at least lucky enough to have both parents in the house. Success would be getting a job out of high school and maybe going to college or carving a career in the military. Anything to get out of Baltimore.
“When my dad talked to us, he was a realist,” said Williams, a retired Amtrak conductor, who moved to Atlanta 13 years ago. “James Edward Williams told it like it was. He never told us that we could be president of the United States one day. Because that wasn’t realistic for a black boy in 1955.”
It was tough for all black boys in 1955.
Hours before Williams’ birth, in the early morning hours, two white men and a woman arrived at the home of Mose Wright in Money, Miss.
They wanted Wright’s 14-year-old nephew Emmett Till, who had just arrived from Chicago seven days earlier. Emmett, they say, had flirted with and whistled at a white woman.
They made Emmett dress and herded him into the back of a truck. He was never seen alive again, and his mutilated body washed up in the Tallahatchie River three days later.