Nichter publishes article on organized labor's response to the death of Emmett Till

August 17, 2021

By Stephanie Rizzo ’09

The article explores the role labor unions played in protests following Till's murder in 1955.

Matt Nichter talks with Farahana Cajuste ’21
Photo by Scott Cook.

Assistant professor of sociology and coordinator of Africa and African-American studies Matthew Nichter has published an article exploring the role of labor unions in the protests following Emmett Till's murder at the hands of white southerners in 1955.

The article, titled "'Did Emmett Till Die in Vain? Organized Labor Says No!': The United Packinghouse Workers and Civil Rights Unionism in the Mid-1950s," appears in Labor: Studies in Working-Class History, a journal published by Duke University Press.

It traces the origins of organized labor's involvement in the case, including scores of United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) marching, petitioning, and rallying to demand justice for Till. From the stockyards of Chicago to the sugar refineries of Louisiana, the UPWA organized the first mass meeting addressed by Till's mother, Mamie Bradley, and traveled to Mississippi with an interracial group of union activists to observe the trial of Till's killers firsthand, flouting segregation inside and outside the courtroom.

Nichter, who frequently teaches courses at Rollins related to civil rights and the Black Lives Matter movement, specializes in research on the relationship between the African-American freedom struggle, labor unions, and the socialist movement. To date, the article has more than 3,000 views, making it the most-read article in the journal's archives.

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