Justice for emmett till

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by alexis becraft

The case of Emmett Till is a nationally known story.   Emmett, originally from Chicago, Illinois, took a trip to visit some wealthy relatives of his in Mississippi.  This would be the last trip that he would take alive.  Just a 14 year old boy brutally beaten, shot, lynched and then thrown in the Tallahatchie River to which he was made to carry a 75 pound cotton gin fan.  This was due to accusations of “flirting” and sexual aggression towards a white woman, Carolyn Bryant, in 1955.   21 year old, Carolyn Bryant, was the married proprietor of a small grocery store.  A few nights after Emmett took a trip to this grocery store, Bryant’s husband and brother, JW Milam, abducted Emmett from his uncle, Moses Wright’s, house.  Emmett’s body was found three days later and taken back home to Chicago.

Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till Bradley, in an effort to use her son as a symbol for the brutality of racism as well as how limited the American democracy actually is, had a public, open casket funeral for her son, showing all of the horrific things that happened to her son.  This story blew up all over America, and much of the US began to scrutinize Mississippi.  Despite the scrutiny, the Emmett's killers were acquitted by an all-white, all-male jury, partially due to problems identifying Till from his mutilated body.  Later, the killers were paid $3,000 for openly telling Look magazine that they were guilty of the murder, however, nothing could come of this as they were protected from any double jeopardy.  Later, in 2004, after JW Milam’s wife, Juanita MIlam, told that Carolyn’s story was fabricated the body was exhumed and given a positive identification through autopsy.  Emmett’s original casket was donated to the Smithsonian Institution and he was reburied in a new casket.

After the trial, Carolyn Bryant kept quiet and her whereabouts were kept hidden by her family.  She also was remarried as Carolyn Donham.  An interview of Donham in 2007, which was made publicly recently in 2017, has brought on a media frenzy with hashtags such as #CarolynBryant or #EmmettTill on Twitter as well as other news outlets.  In this interview, Bryant admitted that she had lied about Till’s “flirtatious” acts and was carrying large amount of guilt from this.  She also expressed that nothing that he could have done, justifies his death.  Bryant said that losing her own son also helped her to understand and sympathize with the grief Emmett's mother felt.  Emmett Till’s loved ones did not react well to these pleas as Carolyn’s son probably died of normal circumstances and Emmett was literally snatched from Mamie and murdered.

Now, under a bill renewed by Obama in December, Carolyn Donham may be indicted.  This Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes bill allows the FBI to investigate crimes committed during the Jim Crow era.  We are now awaiting further coverage on this matter but until then we stand in solidarity with the loved ones of Emmett and Mamie Till.  We can only hope for justice to be served.