THE murder of Emmett Till shocked the country and helped fan the flames of the country’s national reckoning with Jim Crow. His story is s
THE murder of Emmett Till shocked the country and helped fan the flames of the country’s national reckoning with Jim Crow.
His story is still taught in classrooms today and referenced by the Black Lives Matter movement.
The protest song Strange Fruit was inspired by the lynching of Emmett Till.[/caption]
Who was Emmett Till and what happened to him in 1955?
On August 28, 1955 Till was brutally murdered by a group of white men for allegedly hitting on a white woman.
Till was an African-American teenager from the south side of Chicago, Illinois.
The 14-year-old was visiting family in Money, Mississippi when he was murdered.
Known as a prankster, Till began bragging to his cousins that he had a white girlfriend back home.
Emmett Till’s mom used to babysit Fred Hampton chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party who was assassinated during the Civil Rights movement.[/caption]
Not believing him the group of boys dared Till to ask out the white woman sitting behind the counter at the country store they were at.
Till took the dare and went into the store to buy some candy and was heard saying, “Bye, baby” as he exited the store.
No one else was inside the store but Carolyn Bryant who was working behind the counter later claimed that he grabbed her, made lewd advances, and whistled at her as he left.
When Bryant’s husband, Roy Bryant returned to town a few days later he rushed over to Till’s family house with his half-brother J.W. Milam and forced Till into their car.
In 2007, the Emmett Till Memorial Commission issued a formal apology to Till’s family at an event attended by 400 people.[/caption]
After beating him, they drove him down to the Tallahatchie River where they made him carry a 75-pound cotton gin fan to the bank and then ordered him to take off his clothes.
The two men beat him nearly to death, gouged out his eye, shot him in the head, and then threw his body, tied to the cotton gin fan with barbed wire, into the river where his body was discovered three days later.
What happened after Emmett Tills’ death?
His corpse was disfigured that his uncle was only able to identify the body by his ring.
Till’s mother, Mamie Till Bradley, famously decided to have an open-casket funeral in Chicago to show the world the horror that Bryant and Milam had inflicted on her son.
Photos of the teenager’s mutilated body in the open-casket where circulated through the media.
Jet, an African American weekly magazine, published a photo of Emmett’s corpse leading the mainstream media to pick up on the story.[/caption]
Bryant and Milam were put on trial in a segregated courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi.
The all-white all-male jury deliberated for less than an hour before issuing a verdict of “not guilty” claiming that the prosecution did not prove the identity of the body.
But Bryant and Milam later admitted to the crime in a Look Magazine interview.
Many people throughout the nation were infuriated by the outcome and by the state’s decision not to charge Bryant and Milam with a separate charge of kidnapping.
Until her confession in Carolyn Bryant only gave one interview soon after the incident.[/caption]
Almost 60 years later, Tim Tyson, author of the book The Blood of Emmett Till, revealed that Carolyn Bryant recanted her testimony confessing that the accusations that Till touched, threatened, or harassed her “is not true.”
She admitted “Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him,” she said.
The murder of Till and the acquittal of Bryant and Milam rocked the nation and were major catalysts for the 1960’s civil rights movement.
Like today’s Mother’s of the Movement, Till’s mother began touring the country on behalf of the NAACP.
In 2008, Congressman John Lewis sponsored The Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act to provide a plan for investigating and prosecuting unsolved Civil Rights-era murders.[/caption]
Rallies were held around the country hosted by the likes of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.
Is lynching a hate crime?
The Emmett Till Antilynching Act was introduced in the US House of Representatives in 2019 “to specify lynching as a hate crime act.”
The bill was reported out of the House Judiciary Committee that year and was passed by the House in February 2020.
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While the nation was in a state of unrest following the killings of Ahmaud Arbury, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd in June 2020, the bill was being considered by the Senate.
However, Senator Rand Paul prevented the bill from being passed by unanimous consent due to his opposition to the bill’s language.
On January 4, 2021, the bill was again referred to Committees of Jurisdiction in the US House of Representatives.