Answer to Question #168079 in History for Al

Question #168079

Murder of Emmett Till 

What emotions does Mamie Till stoke in her reaction to her son's murder, and how important is her role as a mother in increasing her authority and stature? What role can anger play in social movements? How is a leader like King able to harness anger in constructive ways?  

Expert's answer

Emmett Till was a 14-year old African-American boy who was heinously murdered in a racist attack in 1955 Mississippi. His mother opted for a public funeral with an open casket to reveal the brutality inflicted on her son. The horrific images of Till’s mutilated body, viewed by tens of thousands of people and circulated by magazines, caused public outrage and indignation throughout much of America, catalyzing the beginning of a revolt and the civil rights movement. Her reaction to Till’s murder aroused feelings of anger about the racial segregation, law enforcement, violence against blacks and status quo in Mississippi. Mamie Till’s role as a mother increased her stature by portraying an ordinary person caught up in extraordinary circumstances due to racism and the role of ordinary people in the civil rights struggle.

In social movements, anger plays a vital role in motivating activism and sustaining the long hard work of social change. Anger is a powerful emotion that can be channeled to constructive social action in quest for social justice. A leader can harness anger in constructive ways by understanding and expressing sympathy while responding to the scourged group to exert influence. A leader can also take action inclined towards problem solving. 

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