Audio

The Death of Emmett Till

Song. By Bob Dylan. 1963. Ballad on the death of Emmett Till.
Themes: Civil Rights Movements
Joan Baez and Bob Dylan at the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Joan Baez and Bob Dylan at the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

In 1962, Bob Dylan first performed The Death of Emmett Till, also called The Ballad of Emmett Till. Below are two verses of the song:

ballad

Click image to download 10-page PDF of lyrics from “Broadside Reunion, Vol. 6.”

It was down in Mississippi not so long ago

When a young boy from Chicago town walked through a southern door.

This most fateful tragedy you should all remember well.

The color of his skin was black and his name was Emmett Till.

….

If you can’t speak out against this kind of thing,

a crime that’s so unjust

Your eyes are filled with dead men’s dirt,

your mind is filled with dust

Your arms and legs they must be in shackles and chains, and

your blood it must refuse to flow.

….

The full lyrics can be found on the Bob Dylan website. Click here and then select “Enter Site” at bottom center of the home page. (Lyrics © 1963, 1968 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1996 by Special Rider Music.)

broadsideYou can listen to a recording of Bob Dylan singing the song on the Democracy Now!’s/WBAI. The August 26 full broadcast also includes interviews with documentary filmmaker Keith Beauchamp (The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till) and Clenora Hudson-Weems, Professor of English at the University of Missouri-Columbia and author of the book Emmett Till: The Sacrificial Lamb of the Civil Rights Movement.

The song is included on the Smithsonian Institution Broadside Reunion CD, track number 203.

Bob Dylan Performs “The Ballad of the Emmett Till” from a 1962 Recording