On September 15, 2021, Robert H. Mayer discussed his new book In the Name of Emmett Till: How the Children of the Mississippi Freedom Struggle Showed Us Tomorrow as part of the History Is Lunch series.
The 1955 killing of Emmett Till is one of the most infamous lynchings in the United States. Black children personally felt the terror of his murder and rose up against the culture that made Till’s death possible.
“From the violent Woolworth’s lunch-counter sit-ins in Jackson to the school walkouts of McComb, the young people of Mississippi picketed, boycotted, organized, spoke out, and marched, working to reveal the vulnerability of black bodies and the ugly nature of the world they lived in,” Mayer said. “These children changed that world.”
In the Name of Emmett Till weaves together the tales of young women and men of Mississippi such as Brenda Travis, the Ladner sisters, and Sam Block who risked their lives to face down Jim Crow segregation.
“I also tell the story of the adults who guided the young people, elders including Medgar Evers, Robert Moses, and Fannie Lou Hamer,” said Mayer. “As the country still reckons with racism and inequality, the figures I write about can serve as models of activism for young people today.”
Robert H. Mayer holds an MA in history from Xavier University and a PhD in curriculum and instruction from the Pennsylvania State University. A retired social studies teacher and professor of education at Moravian College (now University), Mayer is the author of When the Children Marched: The Birmingham Civil Rights Movement and editor of The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which won a Carter G. Woodson book award in 2005.
History Is Lunch is sponsored by the John and Lucy Shackelford Charitable Fund of the Community Foundation for Mississippi. The weekly lecture series of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History explores different aspects of the state's past. The hour-long programs are broadcast from the Craig H. Neilsen Auditorium of the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum building.