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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 14 November 2007

"They said, 'We're looking for a fat boy from Chicago,'" Parker remembered.
The pair were looking for his cousin, Emmett Till, after the 14-year-old Black child had whistled at a White woman outside a Money, Miss., grocery store a few days before.
They found Till and dragged him out of the house. The boy's body was found a few days later in the Tallahatchie River, strapped to a cotton gin fan. The incident is credited with helping spark the civil rights movement.
"I was in the home when they took him. They came to my room first," said the 68-year-old Parker, who lives outside Chicago. "I'm thinking I'm going to get killed. I think I had the whole bed shaking."
Parker related that chilling memory in an interview this month with StoryCorps Griot, an ambitious oral-history project that means to document the stories of Black Americans.
The project's mobile recording studio is outside the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library in Memphis through Dec. 8.
The Griot (pronounced GREE-oh) project, named after West African storytellers and historians, hopes to record interviews with 1,800 Black Americans that will then be available for study.
The project grew out of the overall StoryCorps mission, which has so far documented 13,000 oral histories.
"We want to find a way to help Americans record their story, in sound," StoryCorps facilitator Steven Thrasher said. "We believe that everyone has a viable story to tell."
While the group plans to record everyday stories, they also hope to get interviews with historical figures like Parker. In Memphis, they plan to interview other veterans of the civil-rights movement, including Johnnie Turner, Minerva Johnican, Maxine Smith and Russell Sugarmon. Thrasher said they also hope to interview local musical figures.
Parker's story was of particular interest, since the Till case has recently re-emerged into the public spotlight with an FBI investigation.
Parker said he was with Till when the boy whistled at Carolyn Bryant. Her husband, Roy Bryant, and the late J.W. Milam, were tried and acquitted of Till's murder.
"He definitely whistled," said Parker, who was in Memphis week with his wife, Marvel, for the annual Church of God in Christ convocation. "He'd just turned 14. He liked to show off. He loved jokes."
But after Till whistled, both boys knew they'd done something wrong, Parker said.
"He knew that he had violated the Southern (protocol). He'd crossed that line," Parker said.
Although Parker has told his difficult story for decades, he wanted to take part in this project for posterity.
"I thought it was an opportunity to share and get some truth (out there)," he said. "It's part of America."

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