The family of Emmett Till remembers his life and legacy on the 65th anniversary of his death

By Deliah Ray,

Contributing Writer,

August 28 marked the 65th anniversary of the kidnapping, beating and murder of 14 year old Emmett Louis Till. The family of Emmett Till held events August 27 through August 30 to remember the life and legacy of Emmett. 

In 1955, Emmett Louis Till came to Mississippi from Chicago to visit his family and never returned home. Emmett was kidnapped, tortured, lynched and murdered in Money, Mississippi for whistling at Carolyn Bryant, a white woman, at Bryant’s Grocery. Carolyn Bryant’s husband, Roy Bryant and his half brother J.W. Milam, confessed to Emmett’s murder to Look Magazine for $4,000 after being acquitted by an all white jury in Sumner, MS. 

During the trail, Carolyn Bryant testified that Till grabbed her and verbally threatened her. Five decades later, Bryant confessed, “That’s part not true,” according to author Timothy Tyson. In his book, The Blood of Emmett Till, Tyson writes that she told him, “Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him.”

Deborah Watts, co-founder of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation and cousin of Emmett, said the 65th anniversary weekend is to make sure that the public remembers the significance of Till’s life. “There is still a thick line that connects from Emmett Till to those deaths that are happening today,” said Watts. “We are concerned about the lack of respect for our humanity, the lack of respect for our dignity and our lives. We truly believe that black lives matter.”

Edelia “Dr. Jay” Carthan, a cousin of Till, pointed out that August 28 is also the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom which Till’s death inspired.

“Tensions in the south were high after the historic Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. the Board of Education ending segregation in public schools. Emmett’s death galvanized the Civil Rights Movement and changed the course of history forever. When Jet magazine printed that photo of Emmett’s disfigured face, people from all around the world were shocked and got involved in the Civil Rights Movement,” said Carthan. “People, white and black came from all around the world to fight in the Civil Rights Movement.”

The weekend of events kicked off Thursday. College students hosted a virtual Generation Z panel discussion titled Hear My Voice with the following panelist: Activists Maisie Brown, Marquise Hunt, Brianna Reaves and Grace Stanley. A candidate forum was also held virtually and was hosted by Mississippi Freeman Democratic Party President Cardell Wright and Public Policy Analyst Shalonda Spence, which included candidates from around the nation.

On Friday, the anniversary of Till’s murder, the family requested everyone to wear black and white to represent unity. Councilman Kenneth Stokes held a luncheon for family and friends of Till at Picadilly’s in the Medial Mall. The family also held a prayer vigil for Till at City Hall and hosted a virtual panel discussion focused on will there ever be justice for Emmett Till. Some of the panelists included filmmaker Keith Beauchamp, who produced the documentary The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, civil rights veteran Flonzie Brown Wright, civil rights attorney Jaribu Hill, former FBI agent Dale Killinger and exonerated Central Park Five survivor, Yusef Salaam. 

A March for Peace and Justice for Emmett Till was held Saturday. About 50 participants marched around the state Capitol and then headed to the delta for the Emmett Till Trail of Tears and Terror Tour. The weekend of events ended Sunday with virtual worship services. 

“It is important that we recognize and remember the bravery of Mamie Carthan Till Mobley who changed history by letting the world see what they did to her baby in Money, MS after the sheriff sent orders not to open Emmett’s casket,” Beauchamp said.

“When people saw Emmett’s unrecognizable picture, people from around the world got involved in the Civil Rights Movement.” One hundred days later, the Montgomery Bus Boycott started. Rosa Parks said she thought about Emmett Till when she refused to give up her seat to a white man.

The family is still seeking justice for Till. “What does justice look like for black and brown people?” Marquise Hunt, a social activist and an Emmett Till Ambassador, asked. Six-five years late and the family has yet to receive justice.”

The Justice Department announced the closing of the Till case on the 65th anniversary of his death. This racially-motivated hate crime that ultimately helped launch the modern day civil rights movement. 

The last known accomplice is still alive. 

The family is asking for supporters to contact Leflore County District Attorney Dewayne Richardson at; 662 378-2105 and Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch at 601 359-3680 to demand #JusticeForEmmettTill and sign the petition here: #RememberingEmmettTill #August28 #NeverForget #65yearslater #JusticeforEmmett

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