The Tutwiler Funeral Home, in Tutwiler, Mississippi, was where Emmett Till’s body was prepared, three days after the young man was brutally murdered. After Emmett Till’s body was recovered from the Tallahatchie River on August 31, 1955, it was sent to the Tutwiler Funeral Home. Woodrow Jackson prepared the body here, in anticipation of its return to Emmett’s mother, Mamie, in Chicago. After the body was prepared, it was released to Emmett’s uncle, Crosby Smith.
Immediately after the murder, Mississippi residents and politicians expressed outrage at the killing. However, the discourse soon changed once the story of Emmett’s murder spread throughout the nation and the world. Many white citizens who had distanced themselves from the murderer’s actions days earlier, began to rally around Bryant and Milam, refusing to acknowledge the outrage of the murder from the local black community and the nation at large. Though Emmett Till was not the first African-American to be lynched, the murder of a young northern black man who had unknowingly defied segregation and a social caste system resonated with many people throughout the country.
On September 6, Mamie Till held an open casket funeral in Chicago. She said that she wanted the world to see what had happened to her son, and images of Emmett’s disfigured body were spread throughout the world, drawing intense public reaction. Tens of thousands of people came to the funeral to see Emmett’s body, before he was buried at Burr Oak Cemetery, in Alsip, Illinois. Back in Mississippi, Bryant and Milam were indicted for Emmett’s murder, and their trial was set for late September at the Tallahatchie County Courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi.
The Tutwiler Funeral Home is still standing today, but has long been abandoned. It stand in Tutwiler, Mississippi, which also has strong Delta Blues connections.