On August 28, 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was savagely beaten and shot through the head in Money, Mississippi, all for the crime of speaking to a 21-year-old white woman. After a widely covered trial, his murderers were acquitted — leading to national indignation and helping to catalyze the civil rights movement.
Though the specifics of each case are vastly different, it’s easy to compare Till’s murder and its aftermath to the 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Oprah Winfrey did that very thing during the Lee Daniels’ The Butler press junket, calling the killings “parallel” — and adding, “In my mind, [they’re the] same thing.”
At the same time, Winfrey — who stars in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, a film set partially during the height of the civil rights movement — was careful to say that those outraged by Martin’s death and George Zimmerman being found not guilty shouldn’t dwell in the past. “You can get stuck in that,” she said, “and not allow yourself to move forward and to see how far we’ve come.”
AMC’s Emmy Award-winning drama series Mad Men, about advertising executives in the 1960s, though critically-acclaimed, has often taken flak in its six seasons for not acknowledging or dealing with the racial tensions of the times. This season, which takes place during the tumultuous year of 1968, has already devoted more airtime to its most prominent African-American character, Dawn, the lead character Don Draper’s secretary. And last night, in an episode titled “The Flood,” the show recreated perhaps the most historic moment in the civil rights struggle — the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
The show’s characters learn of King’s death over the radio and in an advertising awards show crowd. Meanwhile, panic spreads as rioting takes hold in major cities across the country. Vintage Walter Cronkite reports play as police and ambulance sirens blare. In one scene, a character is upbraided for lamenting the loss of TV advertising profits in the wake of MLK’s death. In another, a black character calls out rioters for not living up to King’s example. Additionally, the African-American secretaries are all suddenly treated with kid gloves by their white supervisors — aware that the civil right’s leader’s death is perceived as a blow to the fight against racial prejudice.
To read more about this Mad Men episode, check out the links below:
This handout image obtained by The Associated Press shows question 9: “What is Person 1’s race”, on the first page of the 2010 Census form, with options for White: Black, African Am., or Negro. After more than a century, the Census Bureau is dropping use of the word “Negro” to describe black Americans in its surveys. Instead of the term popularized during the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, census forms will use the more modern-day labels, “black” or “African-American”. (AP Photo)
WASHINGTON (AP) — After more than a century, the Census Bureau is dropping its use of the word “Negro” to describe black Americans in surveys. Instead of the term that came into use during the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, census forms will use the more modern labels “black” or “African-American.”
The change will take effect next year when the Census Bureau distributes its annual American Community Survey to more than 3.5 million U.S. households, Nicholas Jones, chief of the bureau’s racial statistics branch, said in an interview. He pointed to months of public feedback and census research that concluded few black Americans still identify with being Negro and many view the term as “offensive and outdated.”