By Janice K. Neal-Vincent
The family of Emmett Till held a rally February 27 at the State Capitol in Jackson and called for justice to prevail regarding his brutal murder.
While visiting his relatives in 1955, 14-year-old Till from Chicago, was accused by Carolyn Bryant (now Donham) of whistling and making advances toward her. Bryant’s husband at the time (Roy Bryant) and his brother John Milam disfigured the youth and cast his body in the Tallahatchie River. Bryant and Milam, now both deceased, were acquitted by an all-white male jury.
Duke University scholar Timothy Tyson, however, reports in his book “Blood of Emmett Till” that Carolyn confessed to him that her charge against Till was a lie.
Till’s relatives and supporters spoke in a collective voice, demanding that the Department of Justice reopen the case and bring Carolyn to justice. “So for me, this whole situation has just reopened a wound that has been trying to close for 60 years,” Aricka Gordon-Taylor, Till’s cousin and administrator of his estate, stated. “Every time the wound tries to completely heal, something else happens.”
According to Till’s relative Priscilla Sterling, “Kenneth Stokes was the one who gave me the apology, not the state governor, not the attorney general.”
Some from the educational arena spoke in support of the Till family’s call for justice. “How can these people who lead the state ignore an event that changed the state? If the color of Till’s skin had been different, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. We have to understand Till’s impact and importance on American history,” said Jim Hill High School freshman Maisie Brown.
Tougaloo College NAACP president Marquise Hunt charged, “I speak to the importance of continuing the fight for those who continue to be oppressed. We experience injustice when the plight of our school children takes a back seat. We must be sure that justice is done.”
“Emmett Till reminds me that the Civil Rights Movement is not over. I hope a new generation of activists will empower us to learn from our past,” stated Robert Luckett, director of JSU’s Margaret Walker Alexander Research Center.
Motivational speaker Le Courtney Harness read an original poem about Till’s ghost which she explained challenged the bigotry of Mississippi, the murders of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Craig Thompson and Vernon Damon. Harness’ overall message she said was to liberate the minds of the present generation and to send a message to the system of brutality.
“We are demanding justice and an apology for the lie of Carolyn Bryant. We have read legal opinions and opinions of many in the public that said no charges can happen. They also go on to say that the statue of limitation has run out. Today, we ask where is justice for Emmett Till? We demand it. We want it. But, we just don’t want a conviction, we want an apology. We must demand that justice be served,” said Dualier Malone, host of Growth Talk Radio/TV Show and political consultant.
Filmmaker Keith Beachamp noted, “I didn’t expect to come back to Mississippi after all this time lobbying for the same thing that took place ten years ago. It’s not a coincidence that Carolyn Bryant came forth and made the admission that she lied on the witness stand. It’s my right to get this case back into the conscious of America to bring justice to the Bryant case.” “Moses Wright, he argued, decided to give up his life to testify against Bryant and Milam that 61 years later nothing has been done.”
Till’s family called upon the crowd to join them in their quest for a new investigation of his murder. Following the session Porter James Varnell noted, “It was very touching and it brought back memories. Back then blacks didn’t have a voice. We only had access to the newspapers. Few had televisions. As a people, we used to be united. Had we stayed that way, we’d be farther down the road.”
Kimberly Morgan Myles, Miss Mississippi 2007, presided.