February 16, 2017
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Emmett Till is a name that has been said many times since the summer of 1955. While he was visiting family in Money, Mississippi, in the heat of coarse racial tensions in a segregated south, 14-year-old African-American, Emmett Till was brutally murdered on August 28, 1955.
It all started when Till was accused of flirting with a white woman in the store she worked at. On August 24, only four days before his death, Till was standing with his cousins and some friends outside a country store. His cousins and friends dared him to ask the white woman sitting behind the counter for a date, after Till bragged that his girlfriend back home was white. The woman in the store, Carolyn Bryant, claimed that he grabbed her, made obscene gestures, and then whistled at her in a provocative way as he walked out of the store. There were no witnesses to back her story up.
Roy Bryant, the owner of the store and the woman’s husband, came home from a business trip a few days later and learned about the alleged encounter between his wife and Till. Infuriated, he went to the home of Till’s great uncle, Moses Wright, with his brother-in-law J.W. Milam early in the morning of August 28. The two of them demanded to see Till and despite the pleas coming from Wright, they forced Till into their car. After driving around for hours into the night and possibly beating Till in a tool house behind Milam’s home, the pair drove him to the Tallahatchie River where he was shot in the head, tied with barbed wire to a large metal fan, and thrown into the water.
Three days later, the corpse of Emmett Till was recovered, but it was so disfigured that Moses Wright could only tell it was Till by an initialed ring his mother had given to him. The body was sent back to Chicago, where Till was from, and from there his mother decided to have an open-casket funeral so that the world could see what racist murderers had done to her only son. Less than two weeks after Till’s body was buried, Milam and Bryant went on trial in a segregated courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi. On September 23, the all-white jury deliberated for less than an hour before issuing the verdict of “not guilty,” saying that the state had failed to prove the identity of the body. Just a few months later, Bryant and Milam admitted to kidnapping and killing Till. They even sold the story to a magazine for $4,000.
The backbone of the trial had completely relied on the testimony of Carolyn Bryant. The jury was not present when she testified. Since the time of the trial, many people have said the testimony that came from Bryant was completely fabricated. They were correct. In a 2007 interview in the book “The Blood of Emmett Till,” Bryant admits that Till never made physical and verbal advances toward her. “The confession wasn’t really surprising,” sophomore Francesca Bruce says, “the case seemed biased; very one-sided.” Bryant’s new confession happened right in the midst of racial tensions in America that have been brewing for years and this has not helped to calm them at all. She also claims that, “nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him.” The whole reason why Till was murdered turned out to be one huge, racially motivated lie. Many people have called for the arrest of Carolyn Bryant, but her family has kept her whereabouts unknown.
Emmett Till’s family has expressed a desire to reopen his murder case. Till’s cousin Deborah Watts said that she believes new information could be found if the case is reopened. She told The Huffington Post on February 9th, “We know that she [Carolyn Bryant] has admitted that she lied, and we know that this is part of the reason Emmett is no longer with us.” Moses Wright said that he saw two men hold Till at gunpoint and take him to a third person inside their parked car. Watts believes that reopening the investigation could help them figure out who the third person was. “She needs to go on trial. She needs to go to jail for lying in a court of law. She needs to get the death penalty,” sophomore Millie Berry expresses.
Emmett Till’s murder was an early catalyst of the American Civil Rights Movement and seeing that he gets justice even decades after he died could help ease the tensions Americans are experiencing today. There are still so many unanswered questions surrounding the events leading up to Emmett Till’s murder. Carolyn Bryant may have received some closure after telling the truth, while Emmett Till’s family is still trying to find theirs.