Beyonce has urged supporters of Trayvon Martin to be inspired by the protests that followed the death of another black teenager, Emmett Till. She is only one of a number of Americans who have drawn a parallel between the two cases – though others point out there are major differences. So who was Till?
After attending an event in New York in memory of teenager Martin, who was shot dead in Florida, the pop singer wrote a message on her website.
“We have made so much progress and cannot allow hatred and racism to divide us,” she wrote. “When we all join together, people of all races, we have the power to change the world we live in. We must fight for Trayvon the same way the generation before us fought for Emmett Till.”
In the summer of 1955, the 14-year-old Till was far from home when his life ended in a most violent way, apparently for whistling at a white woman.
Dragged from his bed at his uncle’s home in a small Mississippi town, he was beaten so badly that his face was unrecognisable when the corpse was recovered from the river three days later. He had been shot in the head and his body tied to a 70lb (32kg) fan.
The two men known locally to have carried out the attack were acquitted of murder. The following year, they admitted responsibility in a magazine interview, but said they had done nothing wrong.
“There was a civil rights movement before Emmett Till came along,” says David Beito, a professor of history at the University of Alabama. “But the outrage galvanised the movement in ways that hadn’t occurred before.”
Till’s mother insisted the coffin remain open so the extent of his injuries could be seen by the thousands of people who paid their respects in Chicago. A weekly magazine, Jet, aimed at African Americans, published gruesome photographs of his beaten face, to show the brutality of the attack.
There were rallies across the country at which Till’s mother, Mamie, spoke to crowds numbering 10-20,000 people.