The Motherhood of Mamie Till-Mobley

Mamie Till-Mobley, mother of Emmett Till, delivers a speech in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1955. Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images

The reason Emmett Till's murder played such a consequential role in the Civil Rights movement is because of choices of his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley. For more than 45 years after his murder, she continually worked to make sure he did not die in vain.

In our listener mail, we discuss why we didn't talk about Margaret Sanger in our podcast "The Kallikaks and the Eugenicists." (The short version is, the episode was about the book on the Kallikaks and how it contributed to forced and coerced, permanent sterilizations, but Sanger's work was focused on voluntary, reversible birth control.) In it we reference some fact checks based on the reasons listeners gave for why we should have talked about Margaret Sanger. Sanger did not say "African-Americans should be eliminated." She also did not belong to the KKK. Planned Parenthood was not founded for "planned genocide." We also heard from listeners who asserted that Planned Parenthood has never disavowed Margaret Sanger's support of eugenics, but this is not the case.

Tracy's Research:

  • Beauchamp, Keith A. "The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till." Metaphor Pictures. A Till Freedom Come Production. 2005.
  • Nodjimbadem, Katie. "Emmett Till’s Casket Goes to the Smithsonian." 11/2009.
  • Whitfield, Stephen J. "Bradley, Mamie Till." American National Biography Online.
  • PBS American Experience. "Mamie Till Mobley."
  • Houck, Davis W. "Killing Emmett." Rhetoric and Public Affairs, Vol. 8, No. 2, Special Issue: 50 Years Later: Emmett Till, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Jr. (Summer 2005). Via JSTOR.
  • Hudson-Weems, Clenora. "Resurrecting Emmett Till: The Catalyst of the Modern Civil Rights Movement." Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 29, No. 2 (Nov., 1998). Via JSTOR.
  • Till-Mobley, Mamie. "Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime that Changed America." Edited by Christopher Benson. Random House. 2003.

Topics in this Podcast: racism, Civil Rights Movement, civil rights, 20th century, women, biographies, teachers, lynching, murder, Crime, trials, U.S. history, black history