Shadows of Emmett Till

Bob Newman

2014 - Ongoing

The Mississippi Delta has been called “The Most Southern Place on Earth,” a region of layered histories that collide with each other on a daily basis. It’s a place that defines America and Americans like no other part of the country – a culture entwined with slavery, poverty, and political and economic oppression. It is the land that gave birth to the creative genius of Muddy Waters and B.B. King, and to the horror of the Civil Rights-era murder of young Emmett Till.

SHADOWS OF EMMETT TILL seeks to probe that complex past: picturing the energy of a landscape that has bred both hatred and creativity, interrogating the whiteness that has always held power in its grip in a place that is predominantly Black, and observing the many ways the shadow of Till’s murder still hangs over the Delta. This is work that breathes the Delta air and seeks to frame the region and its people in a 21st-century context, at a time when white America may be starting to finally come to terms with the sins of its past.

The Mississippi Delta stretches from Memphis to Vicksburg. Hard times, hot humid weather, flooding, and destitution are facts of life. Since 2014, I’ve photographed in 38 towns and roamed countless miles across the land. I’ve been in churches and card parlors, and discovered swimming holes, bayous and guns. More than once, I’ve stood on the Black Bayou Bridge where Emmett’s body was thrown into the river and have worked to make a photo that honors him and his legacy. Again and again, I see the past spilling into the present. As I photograph what remains of that time, I am finding troubling parallels with George Floyd and so many others.

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  • Abandoned Cotton Gin At Dawn

  • Sunday Morning

  • Glendora

  • Brooklyn Chapel

  • Sylvester

  • Michael

  • Friar's Town

  • Bayou

  • Friends

  • Afternoon Bike Ride

  • Hope

  • August 1955

  • Saturday Night Aftermath

  • Black Bayou Bridge

  • Dressing Up For God

  • House Party

  • RFK

  • Toney's Barber Shop

  • Bryant's Grocery Store

  • Cotton Rows