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Christopher Benson at WIU Nov. 17-18; Programs on Historic Emmett Till Lynching

November 16, 2009

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MACOMB, IL - - Christopher Benson, award-winning journalist and co-author of "Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America," will be on the Western Illinois University-Macomb campus Tuesday-Wednesday, Nov. 17-18 for events for students as well for the public.

An associate professor of African American Studies and journalism at the University of Illinois, Benson co-wrote the 2003 Random House book with Mamie Till-Mobley about the life and death of her son, Emmett Till, and the history-making changes that followed his 1955 lynching in Mississippi.

From 5:30-8 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 17) Benson will present a "Writing Nonfiction" workshop for interested WIU students, faculty and staff in Simpkins Hall 327.

Benson has worked for Ebony magazine; and his writing has appeared in Chicago Magazine, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and Reader's Digest. He has also worked in radio and television.

The video documentary, "The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till" by filmmaker Keith Beauchamp, will be screened at noon and 3:30 p.m. in the University Union Sandburg Theatre. It tells of the 14-year-old who was sent by his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley of Chicago, to visit relatives in the Mississippi Delta in August 1955. Eight days into his stay, Emmett was abducted from his great uncle's home, brutally beaten and murdered because of one of the oldest Southern taboos: whistling at a white woman in public. The murderers were soon arrested but later acquitted by an all-white, all-male jury.

Beauchamp's documentary is the result of a 10-year search to uncover the truth behind the Emmett's brutal murder and his family's brave actions in the aftermath, which served as a major impetus for America's Civil Rights Movement, and led to Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. making decisions which changed the course of history, according to Pearlie Strother-Adams, associate professor of English and journalism.

At 2:30 p.m. (between screenings) a panel discussion - - ""A Critical Look at 'The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till'" -- will be held in the Sandburg Theatre. Panelists will include Benson, along with WIU faculty Peter Cole, history; Oswald Warner, sociology; Roberta Di Carmine, English and journalism; Darwin Fishman, African American studies; and moderator: Janice Welsch, English and journalism professor emeritus.

Benson will deliver a final lecture at 6 p.m. (Wednesday): "From Emmett Till to Barack Obama: The Evolution of an American Narrative," in the Sandburg Theatre.

The video documentary, "The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till," is available on reserve at the Malpass Library through Thursday, Nov. 19.

Benson's visit was organized by Western's English and journalism department. Sponsors include Western's Expanding Cultural Diversity Project; Center for Innovation in Teaching and Research; Office of Equal Opportunity and Access; Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center; Visiting Lectures Committee; Centennial Honors College; the College of Arts and Sciences; and the departments of art, English and journalism, history and African American studies.

For more information, contact Strother-Adams at (309) 298-1425 or

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