Emmett Till Apology: Prelude to Tourism
During the summer of 1955, on August 20th, Mamie Till rushed her son and only child, Emmett Till, a 14 year old boy, to the train station in Chicago, Illinois for a trip to visit with his family in Money, Mississippi.
While visiting his relatives in Mississippi, Emmett and some other youth entered a store, Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market in Money, Mississippi, where it was reported Emmett whistled at a White woman.
A witness in the Bryant store at the time of the incident, a young African American boy, said that on that day in 1955, Emmett was watching a game of checkers going on inside the store and he whistled at a move made by one of the checker players.
A week and a day after Emmett Till arrived in Mississippi, on August 28, 1955, he was kidnapped, from his great uncle Moses Wright's home, tortured and murdered. One witness reported hearing Emmett's screams for hours before he was finally killed.
The body of Emmett Till was found floating three days later in the Tallahatchie River, a fan from a cotton gin tied to his neck with barbed wire.
His badly decomposed body was identified by his great uncle, identifying him by a ring, Emmett's father's initialed ring, that Emmett's mother had given Emmett before he left Chicago.
J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant, the husband of Carolyn Bryant, the woman alleged to have been whistled at in the store, are arrested on August 29, 1955 and eventually formally charged with the murder of Emmett Till, on the day Emmett was buried in Chicago, on September 6, 1955. The defendants enter a plea of not guilty.
Back in Mississippi, on September 23, 1955, after deliberating for 67 minutes, with one of the jurors of the all White male jury saying it took them that long because they stopped to drink some soda pop, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty.
On October 2, 2007, fifty two years after the murder of Emmett Till, the Emmett Till Memorial Commission, appointed by the Tallahatchie County Board of Supervisors, officially read a resolution, apologizing to the family of Emmett Till and dedicated a marker commemorating the case, on the steps of the Sumner Courthouse.
Funds are currently being raised to restore the Sumner Courthouse, meant to serve as a museum, where the men charged with murdering Emmett Till were tried and acquitted in 1955.
After the reading of the apology at the courthouse, participants boarded buses for a tour. Jerome G. Little, Till Memorial Commission chair, says tourism will lead to jobs and more businesses moving in.
Listed on the itinerary for the event held on October 2, in addition to the Sumner Courthouse, other sites included on the tour were to be:
- the Tutwiler Funeral Home (where Emmett Till's body was embalmed after being recovered from the Tallahatchie River)
- River Road
- Glendora sites
- the Money store (formerly Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market, where it is alleged Emmett Till whistled at a White woman)
According to this article, the tour will include the site where Emmett Till's body was recovered from the Tallahatchie River.
From an article at Lexisnexis.com:
Retired preacher G.A. Johnson, who is African-American, denounced the commission at public meetings, and calls the funds being raised to restore the courthouse "blood money."
"They slaughtered this boy and now they want to come back and raise money off the death of that child --- God forbid," Johnson said.
To read the Lexisnexis.com article, click here.
In June 2007, legislation known as the Emmett Till Civil Rights Crime Act was passed to investigate unsolved civil rights crimes.