This paper analyses the role that Emmett Till’s postmortem pictures had in the emergence of the modern civil rights movement. When they circulated in magazines, newspapers, and television in 1955, African Americans mobilized all over the U.S., so the pictures worked as a mobilization weapon. I intend to develop some hypotheses to explain this effect. To this end, the paper comprises four parts: an outline of the murder case; an analysis of the pictures’ formal and semantic features as well as the discourses and context where they were released; an examination of Till’s figure as a martyr through the effects that his pictures caused in his contemporaries; and finally, a reflection on censorship towards the massive circulation of shocking pictures.



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