August 28, marks the anniversary of two seminal events in the 20th Century Civil Rights Movement: the brutal murder of teenager Emmett Till in 1955, and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.
While one event is tragic and the other uplifting, they are inextricably intertwined and remain relevant to our present-day fight against racial violence and economic inequality. Mamie Till's decision to leave open her son's casket and reveal his mutilated body for the world to see functioned as the cell phone video of its day.
A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, principal organizers of the March, chose August 28 specifically in memorial of Till.
Documentary filmmaker Keith Beauchamp, who lobbied for the reopening of the Till case by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2004, said "Rustin understood that it was a shocking case and he was able to see people gathering together and fighting injustice. And he wanted that same type of feel with the March on Washington.”