Who was Emmett Till and what happened to him in 1955? | The Sun
THE lynching of Emmett Till in 1995 is one of the major moments in the history of the struggle for African Americans' civil rights.
His story is still taught in classrooms today and referenced by the Black Lives Matter movement. But who was he and what happened to him? Here's everything you need to know.
Who was Emmett Till and what happened to him in 1955?
On August 28, 1955, Emmet Till was brutally murdered by a group of white men for allegedly flirting with a white woman.
Till was an African-American teenager from the south side of Chicago, Illinois.
The 14-year-old was visiting family in Money, Mississippi, when he was murdered.
Known as a prankster, Till began bragging to his cousins that he had a white girlfriend back home.
Not believing him, the group of boys dared Till to ask out the white woman sitting behind the counter at the country store they were at.
Till took the dare and went into the store to buy some candy and was heard saying, “Bye, baby” as he exited the store.
No one else was inside the store, but Carolyn Bryant, who was working behind the counter, later claimed that he grabbed her, made lewd advances, and whistled at her as he left.
When Carolyn's husband, Roy Bryant, returned to town a few days later, he rushed over to Till's family house with his half-brother J.W. Milam and forced Till into their car.
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After beating him, they drove him down to the Tallahatchie River where they made him carry a 75-pound cotton gin fan to the bank and then ordered him to take off his clothes.
The two men beat him, gouged out his eye, shot him in the head, and then threw his body, tied to the cotton gin fan with barbed wire, into the river where his body was discovered three days later.
What happened after Emmett Till's death?
His corpse was so disfigured that his uncle was only able to identify the body by his ring.
Till's mother, Mamie Till Bradley, famously decided to have an open-casket funeral in Chicago to show the world the horror that Bryant and Milam had inflicted on her son.
Photos of the teenager's mutilated body in the open casket were circulated through the media.
Bryant and Milam were put on trial in a segregated courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi.
The all-white all-male jury deliberated for less than an hour before issuing a verdict of “not guilty" claiming that the prosecution did not prove the identity of the body.
But Bryant and Milam later admitted to the crime in a Look Magazine interview.
Many people throughout the nation were infuriated by the outcome and by the state’s decision not to charge Bryant and Milam with a separate charge of kidnapping.
Almost 60 years later, Tim Tyson, author of the book The Blood Of Emmett Till, revealed that Carolyn recanted her testimony, confessing that the accusations that Till touched, threatened, or harassed her "is not true."
She admitted; “Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him.”
The murder of Till and the acquittal of Bryant and Milam rocked the nation and were major catalysts for the 1960s civil rights movement.
Like today's Mothers of the Movement, Till's mother began touring the country on behalf of the NAACP.
Rallies were held around the country and hosted by the likes of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.
Is Till based on his story?
The film Till debuted worldwide at the 60th New York Film Festival, which took place from September 30 to October 16, 2022.
The film was directed by Chinonye Chukwu.
It is based on the story of Till's murder.
In it, Emmett Till is played by Jalyn Hall, and his mother Mamie by Danielle Deadwyler.
The film, which also stars Whoopi Goldberg, primarily follows his mother's fight for justice following her son's gruesome death.
“In her new film Till, Chinonye Chukwu has crafted a bracing portrait of the short life of Emmett Till and the fearless activism of his mother, Mamie Till, whose fight for justice following the murder of her son was a catalyst for the ongoing battle for civil rights in our country,” said Eugene Hernandez, who serves as the executive director of the New York Film Festival.
In addition to sharing the story of Emmett Till with the film community, the filmmakers decided to invite local high school students and community members.
They also hosted discussions after the film, which were shared nationally with countless other high school students.
Is lynching a hate crime?
The Emmett Till Antilynching Act was introduced in the US House of Representatives in 2019 "to specify lynching as a hate crime act".
The bill was reported by the House Judiciary Committee that year and was passed by the House in February 2020.
While the nation was in a state of unrest following the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd in June 2020, the bill was being considered by the Senate.
However, Senator Rand Paul prevented the bill from being passed by unanimous consent due to his opposition to the bill's language.
On January 4, 2021, the bill was again referred to the Committees of Jurisdiction in the US House of Representatives.
It was passed by the US House of Representatives on February 28, 2022.
Next, it finally cleared the US Senate on March 7, 2022, and was signed into law on March 29, 2022, by President Joe Biden.
This makes lynching officially a hate crime.
What happened to Carolyn Bryant Donham
Carolyn Bryant Donham, known in 1955 as Carolyn Bryant, died in April 2023 in Westlake, Louisiana.
She was 88 years old and had reportedly been in a hospice after being diagnosed with cancer.
Prosecutors had sought to charge her for her role in Till's death but never managed to get her to trial.
In 2022 an attempt to have her indicted by a grand jury for kidnapping and manslaughter failed.
A statement from the Emmett Till & Mamie Till-Mobley Institute said that they "wish mercy on her soul, even as we regret that she never took responsibility for her role" in the boy's murder.
The statement added: "While the world saw the horrors of racism in Emmett's murder, the real consequences of hatred, what the world will never now see is remorse or responsibility for his death."
Carolyn divorced Roy and remarried twice.
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