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FSU professor establishes new Emmett Till Lecture and Archives Fund

Friday, February 28, 2020

The work to remember Emmett Till will continue at Florida State University thanks to new funding established by one of the nation’s leading experts on the 1955 murder that helped launch the civil rights movement.

Davis Houck, Fannie Lou Hamer Professor of Rhetorical Studies in the School of Communication at FSU, has recently established a new Emmett Till Lecture and Archives Fund.

“This gift honors Emmett Till, whose life and memory have become touchstones for U.S. civil rights history,” Houck said. “This collection will continue to evolve as the nation’s preeminent site to preserve materials related to the kidnap, murder, trial and aftermath. It will also support the collaborative work with the Emmett Till Memory Project as we continue to tell this dynamic story.

The Emmett Till Lecture and Archives Fund will provide much needed support to maintain, enhance, promote and grow the Emmett Till Archives at Florida State University Libraries. The fund will primarily support an annual Emmett Till Archives lecture and add to the collection. Other activities provided by the fund may include travel for researchers and students to work with the collections and funds for student scholarships and projects produced from the Till Archives.

“We look forward to growing this fund, the work ahead, and sharing that work with generations of faculty, staff and students at FSU and far beyond,” Houck said.

One of the nation’s leading experts on Emmett Till, Houck helped create and lead the Emmett Till Memory Project, which developed a 21st-century digital historical record  of the people, places and episodes associated with Till’s murder and legacy. Houck also co-authored “Emmett Till and the Mississippi Press” with Matthew A. Grindy.

“Houck’s gift will enable our students and researchers to engage with these materials to connect events from this tragedy of the past with social issues of the present,” said Gale Etschmaier, dean of FSU Libraries. “Through this, we hope the lessons of the past can be a catalyst for change for the future.”

Houck collaborated with FSU Libraries’ Division of Special Collections and Archives to develop the Emmett Till Archives, which includes newspapers, magazines, oral histories, photographs, government records, scholarly literature, creative works and other materials documenting the Till case and its commemoration, memorialization and discussion in scholarship and popular culture. The archives are open to the public, with some materials currently available online.

Houck said one of the reasons he and his family created the fund was to honor the support FSU Libraries has given him throughout the past 20 years.

“Specifically, the extraordinary work of Reggie Jones, Velma Smith, Kyung Kim, Katie McCormick, Rory Grennan, Julia Zimmerman and Gale Etschmaier has allowed my career to flourish,” Houck said. “Their commitment to excellence also has made countless classroom projects come to life for me and my students.”

According to Katie McCormick, associate dean for Special Collections and Archives, FSU Libraries is honored to have Houck’s support as well.

“This endowment will further our work in community outreach and discussion and increase opportunities for students to work with archival materials,” McCormick said.

For more information about the Florida State University Libraries and their Division of Special Collections and Archives, visit

About The Florida State University Libraries

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