Tim Tyson speaks to issues of race and politics

August 30, 2017

Mark your calendars for Thursday, September 28, 2017.  The Friends of the UW-Madison Libraries is pleased to host author and former UW-Madison faculty member, Tim Tyson, as the speaker for our Annual Schewe Lecture.  The recent events in Charlottesville and elsewhere continue to demonstrate that we have much to learn from our historians regarding the steep uphill battle endured by the people of color in this nation.  Tyson will discuss his most recent book, The Blood of Emmett Till, which is a detailed account of the events surrounding the young African-American boy’s death.

In spite of Supreme Court rulings to the contrary, during the middle 1950s much of the South held fast to its Jim Crow traditions, barring black citizens from registering to vote and enforcing segregation in public schools, retail establishments, and restrooms.  Atrocities against black citizens were ignored and even encouraged by local police as a means to maintain the white rule of order.  Thus the color line was crossed when the 14-year-old Chicago lad flirted with a pretty white store clerk while visiting relatives in Mississippi in 1955.  Days later, the youth was abducted, brutally beaten, and killed in retaliation.  Emmett Till’s mother chose to lay his casket wide open during his funeral, and photos of the mutilated child served as a catalyst to fuel the next phase of the civil rights movement.  Weeks later, Rosa Parks had his images in her thoughts as she refused to move to the back of the bus.  The trial of the men responsible for his death, which received national and global press coverage, ended in an acquittal by an all-white, male jury.  The decision infuriated many, rallying support for civil rights efforts throughout the South.

Emmett Till’s death is often seen as an enduring symbol of the results of racism and white supremacy. And while more than half a century has transpired since his murder, we continue to struggle to level the playing field of color in this country.  His story and the surrounding issues of discriminatory law enforcement and civil rights continue to resonate in the wake of Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, and Madison’s own Tony Robinson.  Indeed, Emmett Till’s name is often chanted during civil protests against police brutality.  With the resurgence of Black Lives Matter and the expressions of hate and distrust on display by the alt right, the lessons of Emmett Till should be revisited.  Tim Tyson’s work brings focus to issues which continue to confound us.  Perhaps a light shining on shameful events of the past will provide a beacon of hope going forward.

WHAT:  Speaker Tim Tyson, Author of The Blood of Emmett Till

DATE:   Thursday, September 28, 2017

TIME:    5 p.m.

PLACE:  Wisconsin Historical Society auditorium

R.S.V.P. required only for the reception and book signing to follow at the University Club:

Click here for Tyson Reception

QUESTIONS?  Call the Friends office:  608-265-2505