On August 28, 1955, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black teenager, was kidnapped by two white men from his uncle’s home in rural Mississippi. Till’s body was found on August 31 in the river, unrecognizable without one eye. It was his death that was one of the key factors in the American Civil Rights Movement.
The President of the United States, Joe Biden, recently announced that he will erect a national monument in honor of Emmett Till. As reported by the Associated Press, an unnamed White House official revealed that to celebrate Emmett Till’s birthday in 1941, President Biden will sign a proclamation establishing the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument. This memorial will include three key sites in Illinois and Mississippi, serving as a tribute to the enduring legacy of Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley.
LATEST: President Biden announced that he will sign a proclamation on Tuesday establishing a national monument honoring Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley.
– The National Monument will span 3 locations in Illinois and Mississippi, and… pic.twitter.com/VHRk4xzwDa
– Brian Krassenstein (@krassenstein)
July 23, 2023
Who is Emmett Till?
Emmett Louis Till, born July 15, 1941 in Chicago, Illinois to working-class parents, is an African-American teenager. When she was fourteen, Till went on a summer trip to live with her uncle in Money, rural Mississippi. He arrived on August 21, 1955, and settled with his great-uncle, Moses Wright, who was a sharecropper (a tenant tenant for a portion of each crop). During his stay, Till contributed to the cotton harvest, working diligently in the fields.
On August 24, Till and a group of teenagers decided to visit a nearby grocery store. Little did they know that this seemingly innocuous decision triggered a series of events that reverberated throughout history. There are different versions of what happened after that, but Till is said to have flirted with the store’s cashier, Carolyne Bryant, a white woman. Some time later, two white men, Roy Bryant, Carolyn’s husband, and JW Milam, Bryant’s half-brother, burst into Wright’s mansion and kidnap Till with a gun. What happened next was nothing short of brutal and horrifying.
Bryant and Milam beat the boy mercilessly, severely injuring him and gouging out one eye. They then took him to the banks of the Tallahatchie River and killed him with a single shot to the head. They then tied Till’s lifeless body to a large metal fan, wrapping barbed wire around his neck before throwing him into the river.
Meanwhile, Wright reported the kidnapping to the police, and Roy and Milam were arrested the next day. Two days later, Till’s body was found in the river, completely unrecognizable except for his father’s monogrammed ring.
Till’s funeral was held on September 6, 1955. His mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, decided to open Emmett’s coffin during his funeral, exposing the shocking truth about the brutality inflicted on him. Shocking photos of her son’s brutally mutilated body have been featured in major publications like Jet magazine and Chicago Defender. Thousands of people gathered at Roberts Temple of God in Christ Church in Bronzeville, Chicago to mourn the death of Emmett Till.
Thirteen days after Till’s funeral, Bryant and Milam were brought to trial. Four days later, despite the witnesses, the two men were acquitted by an all-male jury. A year later, in a paid interview with Look magazine, Bryant and Milam confessed to the murder of Emmett Till.
In May 2004, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reopened its investigation into Till’s case to determine whether others were involved in the crime. They have worked with the Mississippi attorney general, the United States attorney’s office, federal prosecutors, and local law enforcement. In 2005, Till’s body was exhumed for an autopsy.
In March 2006, the FBI concluded its exhaustive investigation and confirmed that the statute of limitations had expired for any potential civil rights violations in the federal criminal case. This means that federal prosecution of the case is no longer possible.
And so the brutal killers of the 14-year-old boy went unpunished. Mamie Till-Mobley will dedicate the rest of her life to bringing justice for her son and will become a prominent figure in the birth of the Civil Rights Movement.