About the National Archives

The Blood of Emmett Till

Archivist’s welcome for
Timothy Tyson, The Blood of Emmett Till
Wednesday, February 8, at noon
McGowan Theater, Archives I

Good afternoon, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m glad you could join us today, whether you are here in person or joining us through YouTube.

Today we hear from Timothy Tyson, whose new book The Blood of Emmett Till, revisits the shocking murder of a 14-year-old African American boy in segregated Mississippi in 1955. In researching this story after more than 50 years, Tyson combed the records, drew on new evidence, and even interviewed the woman with whom Till allegedly flirted.

The Blood of Emmett Till has attracted advance praise and favorable early reviews. Jason Parham, in New York Times, calls it “an account of absorbing and sometimes horrific detail.”

In the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Joseph P. Williams calls Tyson “a terrific writer and storyteller,” and declares that “What sets Tyson’s book apart is the wide-angle lens he uses to examine the lynching, and the ugly parallels between past and present.”

We’re pleased to host Timothy Tyson at the National Archives today and hear his telling of the story of Emmett Till.

Before we bring up our speaker, though, I’d like to tell you about two programs coming up later this month.

On Thursday, February 16, at 7 p.m., we host “An Evening with the Mount Rushmore Presidents.” You’ll have the opportunity to hear from and ask questions of the four Presidents who are memorialized on Mount Rushmore: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.

The next week, we have our Annual Showcase of Academy Award–Nominated Documentaries and Short Subjects. From Wednesday, February 22, to Sunday the 26th, we’ll show the nominees in four categories: Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, Live Action Short Film, and Animated Short Film. This is always a popular program, so check Archives.gov for the schedule and reserve a seat.

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events in print or online at Archives.gov. There are copies in the lobby—along with a sign-up sheet so you can receive it by regular mail or email. You’ll also find brochures about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

The murder of Emmett Till horrified the nation. Individuals and organizations wrote letters and telegrams to President Dwight Eisenhower, the Attorney General, and other members of his administration to express their opinions and call for action. Many of these communications are in the Eisenhower Presidential Library. Many other letters and reports are in the National Archives among records of the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Sadly, Emmett Till’s fate was not unique. Archives records document lynchings and other acts of violence committed against African Americans from the mid-19th century into the 20th century in investigative reports and federal court proceedings. Because we preserve the records, scholars such as today’s guest speaker may weave together the details to bring these stories to a greater audience.

Timothy Tyson is Senior Research Scholar at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and Visiting Professor of American Christianity and Southern Culture at Duke Divinity School. He is also the author of Blood Done Sign My Name, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the winner of the Southern Book Award for Nonfiction, the Grawemeyer Award in Religion, and others. His book Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power, won the James Rawley Prize for best book on race and the Frederick Jackson Turner Prize for best first book in U.S. History from the Organization of American Historians. He serves on the executive board of the North Carolina NAACP and the UNC Center for Civil Rights.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Timothy Tyson.


“Lynching: Ida B. Wells-Barnett and the Outrage over the Frazier Baker Murder,” by Trichita M. Chestnut (Fall 2008 Prologue) https://www.archives.gov/files/publications/prologue/2008/fall/lynching.pdf


Joseph P. Williams, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, http://m.startribune.com//review-the-blood-of-emmett-till-by-timothy-b-tyson/411924466/
“What sets Tyson’s book apart is the wide-angle lens he uses to examine the lynching, and the ugly parallels between past and present.”

“A terrific writer and storyteller, Tyson compels a closer look at a heinous crime and the consequential decisions, large and small, that made it a national issue.”

Jason Parham, New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/books/review/blood-of-emmett-till-timothy-b-tyson.html

“an account of absorbing and sometimes horrific detail.”

Civil Rights: The Emmett Till Case (Eisenhower Lib)