New partnership with Miss. HS strengthens FSU’s Emmett Till ties

Published: Feb. 16, 2021 at 10:55 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - In September of 2019, WCTV brought you the story of a new app-based initiative to expand engagement with the story of Emmett Till.

Thanks to the help from a Florida State professor, the Emmett Till Memory Project takes users on a virtual tour of what happened in 1955 when the 14-year-old was murdered in Mississippi.

The project takes advantage of the nation’s largest Emmett Till archives found on Florida State’s campus as the Strozier Library.

Now, a new partnership is taking that collection virtually, from Tallahassee to Webb, Miss., in Tallahatchie County, where Till’s body was found. It’s a new contest for high schoolers in the West Tallahatchie School District; students gain access to the archive and, in the process, uncover their hometown’s history like never before.

One of America’s most infamous trials happened in 1955 in Tallahatchie County, when the abductors and killers of 14-year-old Emmitt Till were found not guilty.

Now, teens who live in that hotbed of history will soon embark on a new adventure.

“For civil rights historians, Tallahatchie County is really ground zero for the case,” said FSU professor and the founder of the Emmett Till Archive Davis Houck.

Houck is spearheading the new project by inviting high schoolers to dive into the archive and re-surface with creative work.

“We don’t want essays. We want music, we want poetry, we want film,” he explained. “We just want to prime their creativity using those archival documents.

Houck created the archive in 2016. It has since grown into an unmatched collection of intimate stories and snapshots.

Katie McCormick, the Associate Dean for Special Collections and Archives at FSU, says she wants Mississippi students to know they can be their own scholars.

“Archival materials are really here for everyone,” she said. “One of the important roles we can play is digitizing materials and doing everything we can to share those materials much more broadly.”

“Everyone here is aware of the Emmitt Till story,” said Germaine Hampton, a U.S. History teacher at West Tallahatchie High School. “They know the impact of it, they know how it helped to spearhead the civil rights movement, but some of the intricacies in the archive, they may not be familiar with those.”

He says by scrolling through the archive, his students might learn something about themselves.

“Getting them to understand they do have a voice, but be sure that voice is used to bring about positivity,” he said.

History and tech are teaming up to write the next chapter in Till’s legacy.

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