Posted on March 24, 2022

Over 12,000 Sign Petition to Cancel Emmett Till Opera in New York City for Centering a Fictional White Character

DeArbea Walker, Insider, March 22, 2022

Over 12,000 people have signed an online petition to shut down a new opera about the victim of a 1955 lynching, Emmett Till.

The play, “Emmett Till, A New American Opera,” was set to open on Wednesday, March 23, at The City University of New York, John Jay College’s Gerald W. Lynch Theatre in New York City. However, critics of the play have called it historically inaccurate.

John Jay College of Criminal Justice student Mya Bishop created the petition, writing that the opera, penned by Clare Coss, centers a fictional “white school teacher named Roanne Taylor” and her “white guilt” rather than the torture and murder of Emmett Till, who was lynched by two white men for allegedly flirting with a white woman when he was only 14 years old.

The petition reads, “Clare Coss has creatively centered her white guilt by using this show to make the racially motivated brutal torture and murder of a 14-year-old child about her white self and her white feelings.”

“Yes, the opera has a fictional white character — but it isn’t about her,” composer Mary D. Watkins said in a statement to Playbill. “It is a true story that happened in our American history that could be told by anyone.”