Lesson Plan: Firsthand Account of the Emmett Till Story

Life in 1950 Mississippi Delta

Emmett Till's cousin Reverend Wheeler Parker talked about life in the Mississippi Delta in the 1950s.

Description

In August 1955, fourteen-year-old Emmett Till and his cousin Reverend Wheeler Parker left their hometown in Chicago and traveled to Mississippi to spend time with family before the start of the new school year. What occurred during their time there significantly impacted the country and became a catalyst for the Civil Rights movement. In this lesson, students will hear from Reverend Parker, a primary source, as he recounts the family's visit to Bryant's Grocery store in Mississippi, discusses the abduction and murder of Emmett, how the days following unfolded, the subsequent legal action, and the impact of Emmett's death on himself and the nation.

Procedures

  • 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.

    HANDOUT: Vocabulary Chart (Google Doc)

    HANDOUT: Graphic Organizer (Google Doc)

    DECK: Slides (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.

  • INTRODUCTION:

    Prior to beginning this lesson, students can review the vocabulary terms, look up the definitions of those words they are not familiar with, and note the definitions on the handout.

    Next, view the following video clip of Emmett Till's cousin Reverend Wheeler Parker talking about what life was like for the family in the Mississippi Delta in the 1950s. Engage in class discussion using the guiding questions. Students can note their responses on the handout.

    Video Clip 1: Life in 1950 Mississippi Delta (2:32)

    Emmett Till's cousin Reverend Wheeler Parker talked about life in the Mississippi Delta in the 1950s.

    • What was daily life like for the family at that time in the South?

    • Why did Rev. Wheeler and Emmett Till make that trip?
  • EXPLORATION:

    Have students view the following collection of video clips. They can watch each video independently, view a video with a partner, or you can jigsaw them by assigning videos to students. Students should respond to the questions on the handout. After viewing the videos, use the accompanying questions to engage in class discussion.

    Video Clip 2: Emmett Till: August 24, 1955 (5:03)

    Reverend Wheeler Parker talked about how the events unfolded on August 24, 1955.

    • Describe what happened on August 24, 1955, as Rev. Wheeler discussed.
  • Video Clip 3: Carolyn Bryant (1:24)

    Reverend Wheeler Parker talked about Carolyn Bryant after Emmett Till and his family went into the Bryant family store.

    • Describe what occurred after Emmett Till and his family left the Bryant store on August 24, 1955.
  • Video Clip 4: The Space Between (1:32)

    Reverend Wheeler Parker shared what happened in the days following the incident at the Bryant store in Greenwood, Mississippi before Emmett Till was taken from the family's home.

    • What happened in the days following the incident at the Bryant store?
  • Video Clip 5: Abduction of Emmett Till (5:09)

    Reverend Wheeler Parker explained what happened on August 28, 1955, when Emmett was taken from the family's home.

    • Describe what occurred during the night on August 28, 1955, when Emmett Till was taken from his family's home.
  • Video Clip 6: Reaction to Emmett Till's Death (4:09)

    Reverend Wheeler Parker talked about the aftermath of Emmett's death, including the reaction of the family, law enforcement, and perpetrators Roy Bryant and John Milam.

    • Describe the response to Emmett's abduction by the family and law enforcement as Reverend Wheeler Parker described.

    • How long did it take for them to discover Emmett's body?

    • Why did Reverend Wheeler Parker go home to Chicago?

    • Explain the circumstances surrounding the arrest of Roy Bryant and John Milam.
  • Video Clip 7: Emmett Till Death and Funeral (4:34)

    Reverend Wheeler Parker talked about the death of his cousin Emmett and the subsequent funeral.

    • According to Rev. Wheeler Parker, why did Mamie Till hold an open funeral for Emmett?

    • What was the legacy of that decision?
  • Video Clip 8: Trial for Emmett Till's Murder (7:05)

    Reverend Wheeler Parker talked about the first trial in the murder of Emmett Till and the article that appeared in Look Magazine in 1956.

    • What occurred during the first trial in Mississippi?

    • Explain Carolyn Bryant's perspective on what occurred.

    • Explain the significance of the story that appeared in "Look Magazine" as Rev. Parker described.

    • Explain the subsequent investigation and the outcome.
  • Video Clip 9: Justice for Emmett Till (10:08)

    Reverend Wheeler Parker talked about the contributions of Alvin Sykes and his pursuit for justice for Emmett Till as well as the FBI's role and Carolyn Bryant's story.

    • Who was Alvin Sykes and what role did he play in the pursuit of justice for Emmett Till?

    • Explain what the "Emmett Till Bill'' accomplished as Rev. Parker discussed.

    • Explain the role of the FBI in this case.

    • Explain the significance of Timothy Tyson's book to Emmett Till's case.

    • What happened as a result of the subsequent investigation?

    • Describe Rev. Parker's views on Carolyn Bryant's story.
  • Video Clip 10: Reverend Wheeler Parker's Story (2:05)

    Reverend Wheeler Parker shared how the experience of Emmett Till's death impacted his life.

    • How did the experience of what occurred in Mississippi in 1955 impact him?
  • CONCLUSION:

    View the following video clip as a class and use the accompanying question to guide discussion.

    Video Clip 11: Legacy of Emmett Till (6:14)

    Rev. Parker talked about the impact Emmett Till's murder had on the country.

    • How did Mamie Till-Mobley view the perpetrators of this crime?

    • Explain Rev. Parker's contributions to Emmett Till's memory and his views on all that has been accomplished.

    • According to Rev. Parker, what does the Emmett Till story represent about America?
  • REFLECTION:

    Have students view the following short video clip of Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch talking about Emmett and Mamie Till.

    Secretary of the Smithsonian, Lonnie Bunch (1:16) (YouTube)

    Then, ask them to use the information from their notes and class discussion and respond to the following prompts:

    • How has Emmett Till impacted the Civil Rights movement?

    • Explain the lessons that can be taken away from the loss of Emmett Till, and Mamie Till's actions, that Lonnie Bunch discussed.
  • EXTENSION ACTIVITY:

    Have students learn more about the story of Emmett Till by choosing locations to explore and report on using the following site:

    Emmett Till Memory Project

Additional Resources

Vocabulary

  • Acquit
  • Altercation
  • Bipartisan
  • Brown Vs Board
  • Civil Rights
  • Closure
  • Deliberation
  • Double Jeopardy
  • Entrench
  • Great Migration
  • Justice Department
  • Legacy
  • Open Casket
  • Overt
  • Perpetrator
  • Recant
  • Segregate
  • Survivor

Topics

Civil Rights & Civil LibertiesU.S. History

Grades

High SchoolUniversity