Alt text: Two Black teenage girls stand in defiant poses while a group of protesters, some wearing pandemic masks and holding signs, gather in the street behind them

Exhibitions at Spencer Museum explore legacy of Emmett Till and racial justice

Jeffrey Melo, “Leaders of the New School,” 2022, courtesy of Bill and Christy Gautreaux Collection, Kansas City, Missouri.

This spring the Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence invites you to experience the traveling exhibition “Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley: Let the World See” and a companion show “One History, Two Versions.” These exhibitions explore race in U.S. history, from the Civil Rights Movement to racial justice movements today.  

The traveling show “Let the World See” offers insight into Till’s life as a child in Chicago, the events that led to his kidnapping and murder, the racism and biases that allowed his killers to go free, and the ways that Mamie Till-Mobley’s love and bravery in advocating for her son fueled the Civil Rights Movement. The exhibition includes photographs, first-person accounts, and other historical materials, including a bullet-ridden historical marker noting the location where Till’s body was removed from the Tallahatchie River.  

The show is a collaboration of the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley Institute, the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, the Till family, and The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. It is recommended for ages 10 and older due to discussions of racial violence. 

Drawing on the legacies of Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley, “One History, Two Versions” highlights the role of art in fostering dialogue about ongoing racial violence, justice movements and Black lived experience. It elaborates on themes presented in the traveling show while uplifting contemporary Black artists. 

Spencer Curator for Public Practice Sydney Pursel explains, “The artwork is big, bold, colorful, and expands on themes of Emmett and Mamie’s story, like the love between a mother and her children, or how media representation and activism have evolved over time, while also recognizing that more work is needed in the fight for racial justice.” 

Pursel worked closely with a group of community partners to develop content and resources for both exhibitions, including the Lawrence Branch of the NAACP, the NAACP Youth Council of Lawrence, B.L.A.C.K. Lawrence, the Lawrence/Douglas County Community Remembrance Project Coalition, and Justice for Wyandotte. 

“Let the World See” remains on view through May 19 and “One History, Two Versions” remains on view through June 16.  

Admission to the Spencer Museum of Art is always free. Free parking is available on the first level of the Mississippi Street garage across the street from the Museum. Check in at the Museum’s Welcome Desk with your license plate number for parking validation. 

KC Studio

KC Studio covers the performing, visual, cinematic and literary arts, and the artists, organizations and patrons that make Kansas City a vibrant center for arts and culture.

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