Family of Emmett Till still fighting for justice nearly 66 years after his death

WARNING: This story contains graphic details.

The death of Emmett Till was a crime that marked a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement and many are keeping his memory alive.

In August 1955, Till was visiting family members in Mississippi when he whistled at a white store clerk, 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant, the Emmet Till Legacy Foundation reported

RELATEDCivil rights activist and Emmett Till relative dies at 50

Bryant later accused Till of touching her hand, grabbing her by the waist and making sexual advances towards her. 

Four days later, Till was kidnapped by Bryant’s husband Roy and his accomplices. Bryant identified him and her husband drove to a barn, lynched and brutally beat Till before dragging his body to the bank of the Tallahatchie River, where he was shot in the head, tied with barbed wire and thrown into the body of water. 

Till’s body was shipped to Chicago, where his mother held a funeral with an open casket. More than 100,000 people traveled to see the body over five days. 

On September 7, 1955, a grand jury indicted Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam on kidnapping and murder charges. The jury of all white men acquitted them. 

Months later, in January 1956, Bryant and Milam admitted to committing the murder. 

More than 60 years after that, Till’s accuser Carolyn, who divorced and remarried, admitted to a scholar that she lied about Till making advances toward her. 

Till’s story is one of many examples of racism that Black people in America have endured. 

RELATED: What is ‘the capacity of America to produce justice for Black folk?” 

Naomi Davis, born the day before Till was murdered, is the CEO and founder of Blacks in Green

She grew up realizing the weight his murder had on Black Americans and she purchased Till’s former home. 

She plans to use the property as an opportunity to create a place to tell Till’s story and provide information about the great migration when many Blacks moved from the south. 

The legacy of Emmett Till does not end there. His cousin Deborah Watts is the co-founder of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation and she’s keeping his memory alive. 

She joined Start Your Day with Sharon Reed and Mike Hill to discuss the continued fight for what’s right. 

“We are at a point now where we want to demand justice,” she said as the family still waits for answers.

Reed asked how she feels about Till’s white accuser, Carolyn Bryant, moving forward with her life and Watts said she has “more determination than anger.” 

Watts said her family understands compassion and empathy, but she said Bryant needs to be held accountable.

 “We want justice for Emmett Till,” she said. 


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