Is Closure in the Purview of the Law? 

In other words, can the legal system provide closure to victims and/or victims’ families? That is the question addressed in my Emmett Till Dilemma One Sheet activity. 


Who Was Emmett Till? 

Emmett Till, a Chicago native, was visiting his family in Money, Mississippi in August 1955, when a seemingly harmless trip to the grocery store to buy gum lead to his death. There are conflicting reports about what exactly happened in that grocery store, but it involved the white cashier Carolyn Bryant reporting to her husband, Roy Bryant, that Till made lewd gestures, whistled at her, and even grabbed her. Bryant and his brother-in-law J.W. Milam drove to where Till was staying at his uncle’s house and forced him into their car by gunpoint. 


Three days later, Till’s mutilated body was found in the Tallahatchie River. He was badly beaten, his head was smashed, he had been shot, and barbed wire was wrapped around his neck attached to a cotton gin fan. 


The two men were charged with murder but were acquitted by an all-white jury. After the trial, both men admitted to killing Till, but could not be charged again because of double jeopardy.


Emmett Till’s Case Today

The case of the murder of Emmett Till was reopened in 2018 as part of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007 that works with the federal Justice Department to investigate unsolved civil rights related deaths prior to 1970.  


According to Time, “A reinvestigation of this case could be a rare chance to bring some closure to one of the most vivid examples of racial violence in the South, from a moment when the U.S. was on the brink of the Civil Rights Era.”
The question of closure is at the heart of the Emmett Till Dilemma One Sheet Activity. 


Dilemma One Sheets are single-page documents that contain information, events, and discussion questions about a particularly interesting and relevant case, such as whether the justice system can offer closure, that introduces students to philosophy, ethics, law, and justice, and helps them engage in critical reasoning. 


Dilemma One Sheets can fit virtually in every curricular area and can be employed in myriad ways. Use them as bell ringers to grab your students’ attention and start the class in a fun and engaging way! 


Or, use it to pair with a piece of literature you are reading in English class. For example, the Emmett Till Dilemma One Sheet Activity can be a great addition to a discussion of The Hate U Give.


How does it work? 

Fairly simply, actually. Students are given a dilemma one sheet with a question to spark intrigue and evoke responses, possibly even conflicting ones. The one-sheets are single sheet documents that include a list of important events surrounding the case, information on the trial and/or litigation, discussion questions to help keep the students engaged, and detailed teacher notes as well. This makes implementing these into your lesson plans simple and virtually hassle-free – every teacher’s dream! 


If you have been thinking about how and when to address issues of rioting, protesting, and racism in your classroom, know that it is always the right time to incorporate more content related to the fight for equality among all intersections of humanity. 


It is my sincere hope that you are able to find this product helpful as you navigate how to teach in response to systemic racism and power, and connect it back to our not-so-distant past. 


If you’d like to read my thoughts on how we, as teachers, can respond to this, visit here


Stay Safe. Stay Informed. 

Thanks for visiting!


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