Creating an Electronic “Freedom Trail” of Civil Rights Sites

Dave Tell, an associate professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas, has received the Scholars on Site Award from the Hall Center for the Humanities at the university. Dr. Tell will use funding from the award to develop a smartphone app called “Whose Emmett Till.”

Emmett_TillEmmett Till was a teenager from Chicago who spent the summer of 1955 with relatives in Mississippi. He was brutally murdered and his death became a lightening rod for the civil rights movement. A trial with an all-White jury acquitted two White men of Till’s murder. The men later boasted in an interview with Look magazine that they had committed the murder.

Several roadside markers showing the location of key events in the Till case have been stolen or vandalized. So Dr. Tell will develop a mobile app that will relate the story of Till’s murder. Dr. Tell will work with Patrick Weems, the director of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Sumner, Mississippi, the town where the trial was held.

Using a GPS system, users of the mobile app will be told the story of Till’s murder from several different perspectives as they travel around Sumner and the surrounding area.

Dr. Tell believes that eventually technology will be able to provide an “electronic Freedom Trail” of civil rights sites throughout the South.

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