CHICAGO - JUNE 13: A photograph of Emmett Till in his casket hangs on the wall at the Chicago Historical Society June 13, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois. The "Without Sanctuary" exhibit features a collection of lynching photographs and other memorabilia. The Senate today is expected to apologize for its past failures to pass a law stop lynching, a crime that cost the lives of over 4,700 people, mostly blacks, between 1882 and 1968. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Emmett Till Memorial Sign Repeatedly Vandalized by Gunfire Because Racists Are Cowards

(CW: Explicit Picture of Emmett Till Included)
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A sign memorializing where Emmett Till’s body was found was established in 2007, and since then the sign has been vandalized in many ways. A year after it was erected, it was stolen, according to the Chicago Tribune, the second sign was as destroyed by gunfire, and the current one was just replaced a little over a month ago—yet it has been attacked by gunfire again. Despite coming up on the 63rd anniversary of his death (August 28th), racists are still attacking Till.

Emmett Till’s murder is one of the most painful moments in Civil Rights history, not just because it was the brutal murder of a young black boy falsely accused by a white woman, but that it took his mother allowing the brutality of his death to be memorialized in photography for many people to really “get” the brutality being faced by African-Americans in this country.

In August 1955, the Chicago native, Emmett Till, was visiting family in Money, Mississippi, where he had the great misfortune to run into 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant. According to Simeon Wright, Till’s cousin who was with him at the time, Till whistled at Carolyn Bryant, which in Ku Klux Klan Mississippi was the kind of thing that would get a black man killed.

“Well, it scared us half to death,” Wright said in an interview. “You know, we were almost in shock. We couldn’t get out of there fast enough, because we had never heard of anything like that before. A black boy whistling at a white woman? In Mississippi? No.”

They kept the incident from Emmett’s great-uncle, Moses Wright, who Simeon Wright insists would have sent Emmett Till away in fear of his life. August 28, Roy Bryant, Carolyn Bryant’s husband, descended upon the Wright home with his half-brother, J. W. Milam. They snatched 14-year-old Till out of bed, kidnapped him, beat him, shot him, and dumped in the Tallahatchie River.

Bryant and Milam were acquitted of murder by an all-white jury, despite eyewitnesses, and due to double jeopardy could not be prosecuted again, which gave them the ego to confess to the murders in Look magazine.

Milam: Well, what else could we do? He was hopeless. I’m no bully; I never hurt a nigger in my life. I like niggers—in their place—I know how to work ’em. But I just decided it was time a few people got put on notice. As long as I live and can do anything about it, niggers are gonna stay in their place. Niggers ain’t gonna vote where I live. If they did, they’d control the government. They ain’t gonna go to school with my kids. And when a nigger gets close to mentioning sex with a white woman, he’s tired o’ livin’. I’m likely to kill him. Me and my folks fought for this country, and we got some rights. I stood there in that shed and listened to that nigger throw that poison at me, and I just made up my mind. ‘Chicago boy,’ I said, ‘I’m tired of ’em sending your kind down here to stir up trouble. Goddam you, I’m going to make an example of you—just so everybody can know how me and my folks stand.’ (via Look Magazine)

Till’s mother, Mamie Elizabeth Till, decided to show the broken and bloated body of her son in an open casket funeral: “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby.” It was that decision that helped people realize just how drastic the lynching situation was in the Deep South on an international level. Which—considering that thousands of black people had been lynched in the country—is very late in the game to get such an obvious conclusion.

Thankfully, Bryant and Milam lived miserable lives after the interview, with their supporters leaving them, black people boycotted their shops, which left them bankrupt, banks refused to grant them loans to plant crops, and when Milam finally did get a loan for land, according to USA TodayBlacks would no longer work for Milam, and that forced him to pay whites a higher wage for the same work.” They both died of cancer, shamed for the remainder of their too-long lives.

Carolyn Bryant admitted to historian Timothy Tyson that she lied in her testimony at the trial about what Till had done to her, which became a part of his 2017 book ‘The Blood of Emmett Till.”

[…] she conceded that Till had not come on to her sexually — a disclosure that directly contradicted her testimony six decades earlier, when she told a jury that Till grabbed her by the waist and uttered obscenities.

“That part’s not true,” Bryant told Tyson, according to the book. “Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him.”

Which is what makes the vandalism of Till’s memorial even more horrifying. It is a reminder that we are actively going backward in terms of having just a basic sense of decency.  We talk about how the racial climate in America spiked during the Obama presidency, and now the racist contingents of the country are getting propped up by Donald Trump and his “fine people on both sides” approach to dealing with neo-Nazis. According to Pew research, “currently, 40% of whites say race relations are generally good, compared with 28% of blacks and 33% of Hispanics who say this.”

The fact that there are people who would come and vandalize this memorial, either out of hate or ignorance, shows the lack of understanding and empathy that is consuming the nation at the moment.

(via Bustle, image: Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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Princess Weekes
Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.