Jan 31, 2023 - Things to Do

New library exhibit explores Emmett Till's life and murder

Photo: Chelsea Cirruzzo/Axios

A new exhibit at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library explores the life and murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till, whose death was a catalyst for the civil rights movement.

Why it matters: The exhibit is designed to educate kids ages 10 and up during a time of rising opposition to education on race and the history of racism in school. The exhibit doesn’t flinch from showing the disturbing details of Till’s murder or the images of his dead body.

Details: The traveling exhibit from the Children's Museum of Indianapolis uses photos and interactive elements to tell the story of Till’s life and murder, and the activism of his mother Mamie Till-Mobley —whose decision to allow for photos of his open casket funeral had a profound impact on the civil rights movement.

  • The MLK library's exhibit also uses newspaper clippings and historic photos to highlight how local activists and Black journalists reacted when the news of Till’s murder reached the District.
  • D.C. Public Library is also hosting a companion exhibit in the MLK library that explores the history of lynchings in the D.C. area and the activism of women and mothers.

Of note: Images of Till's body, which were published in Jet magazine, have to be viewed by lifting a label.

What they’re saying: The exhibit invites viewers to think about ways they can stand up to injustice, as his mother did.

  • For example, a touchscreen game presents visitors with different scenarios and demonstrates the ripple effect of their choices, says Jennifer Pace Robinson, president and CEO of the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

How to see it: The exhibit is at the library until March 12.

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