The Murder of Emmett Till: In the News and Still Galvanizing 63 Years Later
Mamie Till put her son Emmett on a train in Chicago and sent him to Money, Mississippi to visit family in the summer of 1955. It was the last time she would see him alive. In a short time, her fourteen-year-old son's murder would shock the nation's conscience and add momentum for the nascent civil rights movement.
Emmett Louis Till’s story is familiar to many. After a visit to the local grocery store with his cousins, Emmett was accused of whistling and flirting with the white shopkeeper, Carolyn Bryant. Life in Jim Crow Mississippi was much different than Chicago, and this accusation was seen as an affront to the white citizens of Money. Within days, Emmett was ripped from his family, tortured and murdered. His mutilated body was found three days later in the Tallahatchie River. Mamie Till insisted on an open casket during her son’s funeral so the world could see what racism in America looked like. The image of an unrecognizable Emmett
remains indelible, the brutality of his death apparent.
The men responsible for Emmett’s death, Roy Bryant (Carolyn Bryant’s husband) and J.W. Milam, were found not guilty at trial. Per the times, the jury in Mississippi was all-white. With no fear of being retried, the men acknowledged in a magazine interview a year later they had kidnapped and killed Emmett. They never showed remorse even to their deaths.
Recent events have brought Emmett Till’s murder back to the forefront. The FBI is re-examining the case
based on Carolyn Bryant possibly recanting her trial testimony about Emmett accosting her. There has also been long-time speculation more men than just Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were involved in the murder. Though justice did not come for Emmett Till and his mother Mamie, hope continues for his family that 63 years later the whole truth will prevail.
Dig into ProQuest’s eLibrary to find the latest news on the Emmett Till case by searching newspapers like the The Clarion Ledger
of Jackson, Mississippi which has featured a series of articles on Emmett Till’s life, murder and legacy leading up to the anniversary of his death. An easy way to find this series is to search using the codes TI for the article title and PUB for the publication title. In this case you would use the search string TI(Emmett Till) AND PUB(Clarion Ledger)
. Then sort your results by clicking on Most Recent
to get the up-to date articles.
August 28 also marks the anniversary of the March on Washington
which occurred in 1963 and where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream"
speech encouraging racial unity. Emmett Till's murder eight years earlier influenced the decision to hold the march on that day. Sixty-three years later Emmett Till's murder continues to be a touch point for those fighting racial injustice today.
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