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'Emmett Till': A Poem of Sorrow, and Hope

Explaining Emmett Till's murder to children in 1955 wasn't easy. Even today, it's still hard to find the right words when teaching young people about Till's brutal death.

In 1955, 14-year-old Till was visiting relatives in a small Mississippi town when he was accused of giving a white woman a "wolf whistle" outside a market. Her husband and his half-brother pulled Till from the house where he was staying, drove him to the banks of the Tallahatchie River and shot him in the head.

Despite eyewitness testimony, an all-white jury acquitted the two men of murder. Outrage over Till's death helped to mobilize the civil rights movement.

Marilyn Nelson, the poet laureate of Connecticut, has written a narrative poem, A Wreath for Emmett Till, especially for young readers.

Nelson spoke with Farai Chideya about her provocative poem, and about the lingering effect Till's murder still has had on the American psyche.

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