Courtney Baker, an associate professor of English, flew to Washington, D.C. recently after receiving a special invite from the White House’s Social Office for the screening of “Till.”
According to a New York Times article where Baker’s presence was noted, the East Room of the White House is where presidents have historically held these special screenings. Back in 1915, then-President Woodrow Wilson invited a group to watch “The Birth of a Nation,” a film honoring the Ku Klux Klan.
On Thursday, Feb. 16, President Joe Biden screened “Till,” a film based on the factual accounts of the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Black teen whose brutal assassination became a turning point in the nation’s racial divide.
Biden invited academics, community members, politicians, “Till” filmmakers, and families who have been personally impacted by racial violence. Baker said it was an honor to sit among them. “Till” was release in October 2022.
“Though I only met her through her work, I consider Mamie Till-Mobley to be one of my greatest teachers, and my work as a scholar is dedicated to her hard-wrung wisdom and care,” said Baker, referring to Emmett Till’s mother. The film focused on Till-Mobley’s persona and her drive to make her son’s unjust death known to the world. “The screening was an auspicious evening, coming little more than 100 years after “Birth of a Nation” was screened at the White House. Though the loss of Emmett Till and the passing of his mother, the valiant activist Mamie Till-Mobley, make the occasion bittersweet, it was a great moment to celebrate those who have worked and are working to make a just future possible.”