By Tammy Gibson, Contributing Writer – Emmett Till, age 14, was kidnapped and murdered 65 years ago today in Mississippi and the family of Till continues to seek justice. The family’s pain is still raw, but they have continued to fight for justice and empower families who have lost loved ones to racial violence. Founded in 2005, The Emmett Till Legacy Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, honors the memory of Emmett Till, inspire families, women, and youth for a better future. The Foundation has joined forces with others to fight for criminal justice reform, civil, human rights, and racism.
On August 24, 1955, Till and his cousins, Simeon Wright and Wheeler Parker, went to Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Marker to buy refreshments and candy. Carolyn Bryant, a 21-year-old white female clerk, and wife of the store owner, Roy Bryant, said that Till whistled at her. Bryant and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, kidnapped and drove Till to a barn, beat and lynched him. They dragged his body to the Tallahatchie River, shot him in the head, tied him with barbed wire to a massive metal cotton gin fan, and shoved his body into the water. Emmett Till’s gruesome murder shocked the nation and sparked and galvanized the Civil Rights Movement.
Mamie Till courageously had Emmett’s body on full display for five days at his funeral. Thousands of people came to view the body at Roberts Temple Church of God and Christ. Two black publications, the Chicago Defender and Jet Magazine published photos of Till’s corpse. After being acquitted by an all-white jury in 1955, Bryant and Milam confessed to Look Magazine for $4,000 that they killed Emmett Till a year later. Bryant died September 1, 1994, and Milam died December 31, 1980.
On the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation’s website, the late Simeon Wright, Till’s cousin, and an eyewitness to his kidnapping says, “J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant died with Emmett Till’s blood on their hands. And it looks like everyone else who was involved is going to do the same. They had a chance to come clean. They will die with Emmett Till’s blood on their hands.”
In a 2007 interview with Timothy Tyson, author of The Blood of Emmett Till, Carolyn Bryant Donham admitted that she lied about Till making advances toward her. The Donham family stated in the 2018 article in the Clarion Ledger that she was misquoted. Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till Mobley, are buried at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, IL.
Till’s family, Ald. Jeanette Taylor and preservationists are working on getting official landmark status at 6427 S. St. Lawrence where Mamie and Emmett Till lived. Ald. Taylor will be writing a letter to the landmark commission requesting the designation. Ald. Taylor told news reporters, “The house definitely needs to be preserved …. It’s a piece of history that cannot leave this ward.”
To commemorate and remember the life of Emmet Till, wear black and white on August 28, the date of Emmet Till’s lynching, a moment of silence at noon, and sign the petition to demand justice for Emmett Till at https://tinyurl.com/y3v5dauk. Donations can be made at https://www.paypal.me/EmmettTill.
To follow the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation, go to https://emmetttilllegacyfoundation.com/.
Tammy Gibson is a travel historian and blogger. Find her at www.sankofatravelher.com, Facebook, Instagram @SankofaTravelher, and Twitter @SankofaTravelHr.