The photo shows the old mom-and-pop store looking battered and dilapidated. Gazing at it, I realized that even during its heyday, the store couldn't have been all that much. Yet what took place there helped galvanize the civil-rights movement.
I didn't have to read more than a few posts to realize Tara J. Young, the Philly woman behind the Civil Rights Heroes Facebook page, was on to something.
Major black-history figures? Not a problem. Those we've got down.
But bring up some of the lesser-known players from the civil-rights era - say, Till's cousin Simeon Wright, who was at his side at that fateful moment at the store; or Rodney L. Hurst, who helped organize lunch-counter protests; or Joanne Bland, who in her youth marched on Bloody Sunday in Alabama and went on to cofound the state's National Voting Rights Museum and Institute - and even the well-informed among us can draw a blank.
Enter Young, 45, a Philly-based labor organizer who has taken it upon herself each day during Black History Month to introduce a new generation to these unsung agitators.
Young uses Facebook to post numerous updates throughout the day in small, easily digestible nuggets. Young people may not always turn to newspapers, PBS documentaries and the annual flurry of black-history events. But they're on social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and if they won't go to black history, it makes sense to me for black history to come to them.
"I'm hoping that people will read the posts and not only be informed about what the civil-rights veterans did, but they will also be inspired to follow in those big footsteps," Young said.
Every day for the past three years, Young has been posting interesting facts about people who have been part of the movement. Every February, her focus sharpens as she turns her attention to civil-rights advocates who are still alive and may be available to answer questions.
This, she says, is her way of sharing their stories of what they endured with a new generation. "We'd better reach out to them and talk with them while we still have a chance," she said. "They are not going to live forever."
Young, who lives in East Falls, estimates that her page gets between 5,000 and 15,000 hits a day. She was inspired to start the Facebook page after reading a small article in 2002 on BlackAmericaWeb.com about an Emmett Till documentary. She emailed around and made phone calls, and before long had arranged for the "The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till," directed by Keith Beauchamp, to be shown in Detroit, where she was living at the time.
Along the way, she became friendly with Wright, Till's cousin. The photos of Bryant's store and Till's empty casket that she posted on Facebook are from Wright's personal collection. (Till's body was exhumed in 2005 as part of an FBI investigation and reburied in a new casket. The original now belongs to the Smithsonian Institution.)
History thanks her back
The civil-rights luminaries she features on the Facebook page see Young as something of a hero herself.
"I love what she's doing," said Hurst, a former NAACP student leader who participated in Ax Handle Saturday, a lunch-counter protest in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1960 that attracted an angry, club-wielding white mob.
Bland, the veteran of Bloody Sunday, agreed. "It's better when young people learn history from the people who actually made it, rather than hearing it secondhand," she said. "Each day, we hear about our colleagues dying."
Young posts some updates to Facebook in the evening as she unwinds from work and sets up others to post automatically throughout the day. Even though what she's doing almost amounts to a part-time job, she said it never feels like work.
Tears came to her eyes last week as she told me about talking with Till's mother, Mamie Till Mobley, shortly before Mobley's death.
It was Mobley who had insisted that her son's brutalized body be laid to rest in a glass-covered casket for the world to see. Young thanked Mobley for her courage, and Mobley said she felt encouraged that her contribution had been remembered.
Mobley died in 2003 at 81. "When I finished talking with her," Young recalled, "I felt like civil rights had just kissed me on the cheek."
On Twitter: @JeniceAmstrong