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Civil Rights: Mamie Bradley

Point Loma Nazarene University's Ryan Library created this web site and the library's display cases, Spring Semester 2017. Some links may be accessible only to members of the PLNU community.

Mamie Bradley and her son Emmett Till

Mamie Bradley and Emmett Till

Reflection on meeting Mamie Bradley

Brian Becker, Director of International Ministries at Point Loma Nazarene University, had an opportunity to meet Mamie Bradley-Mobley. Below is his reflection on that meeting. 

During my senior year at PLNU I rallied some friends to visit San Diego’s St. Stephen’s Church of God in Christ. I’d enjoyed the preaching of Bishop George McKinney on previous occasions. We arrived a few minutes late for service and the pews were filled. Ushered up to the platform to sit with the choir, we were conspicuously late, white, and young. Bishop recognized me and introduced us on the mic as friends from PLNU. Mother Mobley (Mamie Till-Bradley) was also introduced as an honored guest, mother to all, and hero of the civil rights movement. She shared a few words and sat in the front pew. As church ended, we came down from our perch. Mother Mobley gave each of us students loving bear hugs and a kiss on the cheek. Her smile and her eyes sparkled and she thanked us.  I confess, in that moment I did not know her story of sacrifice, grief, outrage, and lion-hearted courage. Emmett’s murder somehow wasn’t in my civics courses. That Sunday she invited me to learn and to join, and I have. With the simple and intentional power of a mother’s hug and kiss she demonstrated a life’s work of conciliatory love.

Emmett's murder and its impact

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August 25, 1955, 14 year-old Chicagoan Emmett Till  visited extended family in Mississippi. He reportedly made indecent advances toward a white woman.  He was brutally lynched.   Mamie Bradley demanded an open casket " all the world can see what they did to my boy."(video with graphic image)  Jet, an African-American publication, photographed Emmett in his casket (article with graphic image begins on page 6).  There was a trial.  September 23, 1955 the two white men accused of murder were found not guilty.  Later in a Look magazine interview they admitted killing Emmett.  They did this knowing they couldn’t be tried twice for the same crime. Till's murder had a galvanizing effect on the civil rights movement. December 1 of that year Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus.  As a result of Parks's action, the Montgomery Bus Boycott was launched.  

In 1962 Bob Dylan wrote the song "The Death of Emmett Till."

Early 2017 the book The Blood of Emmett Till was published. In it Carolyn Bryant, the woman who accused Emmett of his "indecent advnaces," admitted she lied.