Mississippi town with Confederate monument receives Emmett Till statue
JACKSON, Mississippi — A Mississippi community with an elaborate Confederate monument plans to unveil a larger-than-life statue of Emmett Till on Friday, decades after white men kidnapped and killed the black teenager for whistling a white woman in a country store.
The 1955 lynching became a catalyst for the civil rights movement after Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, insisted on an open funeral in Chicago so the world could see the horrors inflicted on her 14-year-old son . Jet magazine published photos of his mutilated body, which had been pulled from the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi.
The 9ft (2.7m) bronze statue in Greenwood is a casual depiction of the living Till in slacks, a shirt and tie with one hand on the brim of a hat.
Reverend Wheeler Parker Jr., the last living witness to his cousin Till’s abduction from a family home, said he will not be able to travel from Illinois to attend Friday’s dedication ceremony. But he told The Associated Press on Wednesday: ‘We just thank God someone is keeping their name there.
Till’s statue at Rail Spike Park in Greenwood is a short drive from an elaborate Confederate monument outside the Leflore County Courthouse and about 10 miles from the crumbling remains of Bryant’s Grocery & Meat store Market in the hamlet of Money.
The unveiling of the statue coincides with the release this month of Untila film focusing on Till-Mobley’s private trauma following the death of her son and her development as a civil rights activist.
A life-size bronze statue of Till-Mobley is planned for the Chicago suburb of Summit. A grand opening Oct. 28 is scheduled for a spot outside Argo Community High School, where she was an honored student. The statue should be in place at the end of April.
Some mistakenly thought Till got what he deserved for breaking the taboo on flirting with a white woman and many people didn’t want to talk about the case for decades, Parker said.
“Now it’s getting interest, and that’s a godsend,” Parker said. “You know what his mother said, ‘I hope he didn’t die in vain.'”
Both Greenwood and Leflore County are more than 70% black, and officials have worked for years to bring Till’s statue to fruition. Democratic State Senator David Jordan of Greenwood secured $150,000 in state funding, and the community commissioned a Utah artist, Matt Glenn, to create the statue.
Jordan said he hoped it would inspire tourists to visit Greenwood and learn more about the area’s history.
“So much has been said about this case,” Jordan said this week. “I hope this brings us all together.”
Till and Parker had traveled from Chicago to spend the summer of 1955 with relatives in the deeply isolated Mississippi Delta. On August 24, the two teenagers joined other young people on a short trip to Money’s store. Parker said he heard Till whistle shopkeeper Carolyn Bryant.
Four days later, Till was abducted in the middle of the night from his uncle’s home. The kidnappers tortured and shot him, weighed down his body with a cotton gin fan and threw him into the river.
Jordan, who is black, was a student in September 1955 when he went to the Tallahatchie County Courthouse in Sumner to attend the murder trial of two white men accused of killing Till – Carolyn’s husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, JW Milam.
An all-white, all-male jury acquitted both men, who later confessed to Look magazine that they had killed Till.
No one has ever been convicted for the lynching. The US Department of Justice opened several investigations beginning in 2004 after receiving inquiries about whether to bring charges against anyone still alive.
In 2007, a Mississippi prosecutor presented evidence to a grand jury of black and white Leflore County residents after investigators spent three years re-examining the murder. The FBI exhumed Till’s body to prove that he, and not someone else, was buried at his grave in the Chicago suburb of Alsip. The grand jury declined to issue indictments.
The Justice Department reopened an investigation in 2018 after a 2017 book quoted Carolyn Bryant – now remarried and named Carolyn Bryant Donham – as saying she lied when she claimed Till grabbed her, whistled her and makes sexual advances. Relatives have publicly denied that Donham, who is over 80, recanted his allegations. The department closed this investigation at the end of 2021 without filing a complaint.
This year, a group searching the basement of the Leflore County Courthouse found an unserved 1955 arrest warrant for “Ms. Roy Bryant.” In August, another Mississippi grand jury found insufficient evidence to indict Donham, causing dismay from Till’s relatives and activists.
Although Mississippi has dozens of Confederate monuments, some have been moved in recent years, including one that was moved in 2020 from a prominent location on the University of Mississippi campus to a cemetery where soldiers are buried. Confederate soldiers.
The state has a few monuments dedicated to black historical figures, including one honoring civil rights activist Fannie LouHamer.
A historical marker outside Bryant’s Grocery has been knocked down and vandalized. Another marker near the site where Till’s body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River was vandalized and shot. Till’s statue in Greenwood will be monitored by security cameras.
“Every time they take it down,” Jordan said, “we’ll just put it back together.”
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