Today in class we discussed that Toni Morrison may have chosen the name Jackson Till as an allusion to Emmett Till, whose murder helped to launch the Civil Rights Movement.
Emmett Till was a fourteen year old boy who made the fatal mistake of supposedly whistling to a white woman in Mississippi. Two white men soon after kidnapped and brutally murdered Till. The gruesome coverage of Till's open casket funeral and the outrage over the acquittal of the two men seemed to ignite an uproar across the country against the horrible conditions African Americans faced in America at the time.
Here's a short video I found on youtube that goes into more detail.