Wake-Up Call: Emmett Till, RIP

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

The original casket of Emmett Till was among the missing items uncovered in the Alsip, Illinois, cemetery scandal. After the body of the fourteen-year-old civil rights martyr was exhumed in 2005 for an investigation into Till's lynching back in 1955, when the Chicago boy dared to talk to a white woman on a trip to the South, it was reburied in a new casket, and the original designated for inclusion in a future memorial.

"His mother had the gut and grit to say that 'I want America to see what they did to my baby's body,'" the Reverend Jesse said of Till, after the Burr Oak news broke. "More than 100,000 saw his body lying at the church. It is said that those who saw his body were never the same again."

Till hasn't rested easy in Colorado, either.

Till went missing here in Denver a decade ago, when sculptor Ed Dwight was given a million-dollar contract to create a sculpture of Martin Luther King Jr. that placed the civil rights leader on top of a three-layer pedestal bearing bronze representations of Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Mahatma Gandhi and Rosa Parks. Unveiled in City Park in 2003, that piece replaced "King and Companion," a perfectly good -- if artistically vilified -- statue of MLK and Till that had stood in City Park for three decades.

After first offering the spare statue -- now described as "a beautiful sculpture that has graced the city for so many years" -- to local schools, Denver finally donated "King and Companion" to the Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday Commission and Cultural Center in Pueblo, where it was dedicated in 2002.

And still stands.

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.