Lesson Plan: The Emmett Till Story

Why did Emmett Till Travel to Mississippi?

Author Devery Anderson explained why Emmett Till traveled from Chicago to Mississippi in August 1955.


Emmett Till was a fourteen-year-old African-American boy from Chicago, Illinois who went to visit his family in Mississippi in 1955 before the start of a new school year. In this lesson, students will view videos to hear eyewitness accounts of what occurred while he was visiting with them, from working in the cotton fields, to the fateful trip into Money, Mississippi. They will learn about the timeline of events, how they unfolded and the subsequent trial for the men involved. Students will also consider the impact this had on the Civil Rights movement and the legacy.


  • SET-UP:

    This lesson offers several options for you to use with your students whether you are teaching in class, using a hybrid model, or engaging through distance learning. It can be completed in steps as a class or students can move at their own pace and complete the activities independently.

    You can post links to the videos in the lesson along with the related handouts and engage in discussion to share responses on a discussion board or learning management system.

    You can also save and share the following Google resources for students to use with this lesson.

    Vocabulary Chart: The Emmett Till Story (Google Doc)

    Handout with Videos & Questions: The Emmett Till Story (Google Doc)

    Activity: Who, When, Where, What, Why, How (Google Slides)

    In Google, choose "File" then "Make a Copy" to get your own copy. You can make any needed adjustments in the instructions such as which activities students need to complete, when it is due, etc. and then make it available to them via Google.


    As a class, view the following video clip to establish background information on the topic. Engage in whole class discussion to clear up any misconceptions and ensure understanding before moving on to the exploration.

    Video Clip 1: Why did Emmett Till Travel to Mississippi? (:45)

    Author Devery Anderson explained why Emmett Till traveled from Chicago to Mississippi in August 1955. Some questions to consider for discussion:

    • Why did Emmett Till travel to Mississippi?
    • Have students share a time when they went to visit family members: Where did you go? Why did you go to that location? What did you do when you were there? How did you feel when you were there?

    Have students view the following video clips and respond to the accompanying questions. They can watch each video independently or with a partner. Students should take notes on the handout and prepare responses to the questions to share them in class discussion.

    Video Clip 2: Simeon Wright and Emmett Till Travel to Money, Mississippi (2:42)

    Simeon Wright, the cousin of Emmett Till, described what happened the day they went into the town of Money, Mississippi on August 24, 1955.

    • Describe how the day began for Simeon Wright and Emmett Till.

    • Who joined Simeon Wright and Emmett Till on their way to Money, Mississippi?

    • According to Simeon Wright, what did Emmett not understand as a visitor to the South from Chicago?

    • What happened when they went into the town and Bryant's store?

    • Describe what occurred when they left the store.
  • Video Clip 3: Rev. Wheeler Parker Discusses Emmett Till (6:54)

    Rev. Wheeler Parker shared his experience with Emmett Till when they went to Money, Mississippi and what occurred in the days after the event.

    • Describe how the day unfolded from Rev. Wheeler Parker's perspective.

    • How did he and the family react to what occurred in Money?

    • What happened in their home on that Sunday morning?
  • Video Clip 4: Emmett Till Abduction and Murder (1:54)

    Author Devery Anderson described the abduction and subsequent murder of Emmett Till in 1955.

    • Describe the abduction of Emmett Till from his family's home.

    • Explain the subsequent events that occurred.
  • Video Clip 5: The Murder Trial of Emmett Till (5:03)

    Author Devery Anderson discussed the Emmett Till murder case. He explains the trial of the two men who were responsible and were found not guilty.

    • Explain the conflicting stories surrounding the death of Emmett Till as Devery Anderson discussed.

    • Describe the makeup of the jury for the trial.

    • How were they able to identify Emmett Till's body?

    • How did the defense team respond?
  • Video Clip 6: Lonnie Bunch Discusses the Legacy of Emmett Till (3:36)

    Smithsonian Institution Secretary Lonnie Bunch shares the significance of the Emmett Till exhibit as the National Museum of African American History and culture.

    • What does the Emmett Till exhibit mean to Lonnie Bunch?

    • According to Lonnie bunch, what is the role of museums?
  • Video Clip 7: Emmett Till Memorial Marker (2:33)

    Emmett Till Memorial Commission member Jessie Jaynes-Diming explains the significance of the River Site sign by the Tallahatchie River from which Emmett Till’s body was retrieved. There have been four signs marking that site over the years.

    • Explain the significance of the River Site sign and why it was vandalized as Jessie Jaynes-Diming discusses.
  • Video Clip 8: Teaching the Emmett Till Story (2:51)

    U.S. history teacher Germaine Hampton discusses how he teaches the story of Emmett Till and the relevance to students today.

    • Why does Germaine Hampton believe it is important for students to learn the Emmett Till story and generate connections to their lives?

    As a class, have students share what they learned in the videos they viewed. Then, have them save a copy of the following slides, complete the activity and submit it to you.

    Activity: Who, When, Where, What, Why, How (Google Slides)

  • Extensions:

    • Students can take a deeper dive into the impact the Emmett Till story had on the country. They can read the related articles linked below and prepare a presentation to share.

    • Have students prepare a short video documentary as Germaine Hampton discussed. They can link the significance of the Emmett Till story with current issues that are being debated in the country.

Additional Resources


  • Civil Rights
  • Closing Argument
  • Constituent
  • Cross Examination
  • Hoax
  • Lollygag
  • National Association For The Advancement Of Colored People
  • Racial Reconciliation
  • Sacred
  • Segregation
  • Symbol
  • Tallahatchie River
  • Testimony


Civil Rights & Civil LibertiesU.S. History


Middle SchoolHigh SchoolUniversity