Emmett Till exhibit coming to Saint Stephen's in Bradenton

kbergen@bradenton.comSeptember 3, 2012 

Saint Stephen's Episcopal School teacher Will Southerland first saw the exhibit in 2010, when he studied at Delta State University in Mississippi.

It's a silkscreen panel exhibit, created by the university, that traces the events leading up to the murder of Emmett Till, as well as the aftermath of his death.

In 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was kidnapped and murdered after whistling at a white woman. The two men charged with his killing were acquitted by an all-white jury, but later admitted to committing the crime. Outrage over his death fueled the civil rights movement.

Now, Southerland's bringing the exhibit to Bradenton this month.

Southerland visited the sites that make up Emmett Till's story in 2010 too: the barn where Till was beaten and killed, the courtroom where those suspected of killing him were aquitted. He'd trace the same path with 10 students the following year, on a weeklong trip during time allotted for trav

el during the Saint Stephen's school year. He teaches English to juniors and seniors, including a class in literature of the South.

"It was mindblowing and nauseating to see the site," Southerland said. But he was still set on bringing the Till exhibit to his school.

The traveling exhibit provides evidence and tracks the sequence of events surrounding the Till case in the form of newspaper articles, letters, old photographs and interviews. The exhibit has been shown across the country and Southerland arranged to bring it here last February.

Throughout the month of September, the public is invited to check out the exhibit at the Middle School Commons during the day. But Southerland urges people to call him if they'd like to set up a guided tour.

Student ambassadors, who normally give prospective students tours of the school, are being trained now to guide people through the exhibit.

The teachers are taking advantage of the opportunity too, Southerland said, planning visits to the exhibit in their curriculum and tying it to classroom reading such as "To Kill a Mockingbird."

The public is invited to an opening reception from 7 to 9 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Middle School Commons. In addition to viewing the exhibit, visitors will have the opportunity to view a DVD on Emmett Till, developed by Delta State University, that has never been seen before.

Saint Stephen's Episcopal School is located at 315 41st St. W. To reach Will Southerland, call 941-746-2121, ext. 1538.

Katy Bergen, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.

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