The Photograph: A New Perspective of the Emmett Till Trial

“That Memphis Photographer” captures courage in the face of white supremacy

This is THE image. 

The only image – strategically snuck in with courage and defiance by photographer Ernest Withers – captured during the Emmett Till murder trial proceedings of the 1955 case that haunts and resonates 67 years later. THE moment when Emmett’s great uncle, Mose Wright, stood up, pointed, identified the boy’s killers, and defied white power in the Deep South. 

After generations of perspective, analysis, and dozens of books, interviews and films – after almost 70 years – what more could possibly be revealed? 

Turns out, a lot. 

Exactly HOW Withers captured the dramatic image, THE Moment, is the stuff of lore, repeated in many accounts and, as discovered by writer David Mason, perhaps incorrectly, with a new perspective as dramatic as the photo itself. Here Mr. Mason offers a new perspective of how Withers made the photo, risking his own life, doing what no other man would dare. 

Now on the StoryBoard 30 Podcast: Episode 73, David Mason, the Emmett Till trial and That Memphis Photographer

Meticulously illustrated here by the 1687Club, is the 1953 Graflex Pacemaker Crown Graphic, the camera Ernest Withers used to capture that moment. 

This summer, writer David Mason and StoryBoard Memphis are proud to publish this untold, You-Are-There perspective that today still resonates – the discovery this week of the arrest warrant, buried in a Mississippi courthouse basement, is a visceral, immediate reminder of how the summer of 1955 still haunts us, and where the secrets of a brutal murder are still being revealed. 

For the next eight weeks, our story will be available in print only – it will go online in late August in time with the 67th anniversary of the murder and the case – but we encourage you to read it today. Don’t wait. Read it today as Emmett Till’s legacy is explored nationwide this summer, in the courts and in film. Subscribe today, or pick it up at our local retail partners listed below. Read it, and see true courage, and a fight for justice, on display. 

Pick up STORYBOARD today and read the feature story.

  • A. Schwab’s, 163 Beale Street
  • The Withers Museum, 333 Beale Street
  • Burke’s Books, 936 S. Cooper Street
  • Cooper Young Gallery & Gifts, 889 S. Cooper Street
  • Demoir Books & Things, 739 White Station Road
  • Novel Memphis, 387 Perkins Rd Ext.
  • The Memphis Public Libraries, all 18 branches
  • Arts Center, 1636 Union Avenue

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(Photo from Getty Images, illustration from 1687Club)

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