Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Emmett Till Exhumed

Little Emmett Till is in the news again, according to the NYTs.

He was:
"a 14 year-old Chicago boy when he left his mother behind in 1955 to visit relatives in Tallahatchie County on the Mississippi Delta. Apparently not familiar enough with southern racial codes, the teenager struck up a conversation and possibly whistled at a 21 year-old white female shopkeeper in Money, Miss. Emmett was soon dragged out of his uncle's house at gunpoint, beaten savagely, shot by a riverbank and dumped in the water, his body weighed down by a cotton gin fan knotted to his neck with barbed wire."
It remains one of the most gruesome reminders of how barbarous racial hatred can be when set free with impunity. Because Emmett's mother, Mamie Till Mobley, asked for an open casket to show the horrors of racism, posterity has pictures. You can see them here; be warned they are upsetting.

Renewed interest was rekindled in Emmett's case due to Stanley Nelson's incredible documentary for American Experience, The Murder of Emmett Till, that aired on PBS.

Two men, Roy Bryant, the storeowner, and, J.W. Milan, were charged for Emmett's murder, but were acquitted by an all white jury. After the acquital, Mr. Bryant and Mr. Milan confessed to the murder in Look magazine. You can read their confession here.

It seems the body is being exhumed because the main plank in the defense's case at the time was that nobody could confirm Emmett was indeed dead because no autopsy was performed. Due to double jeopardy, Bryant and Milan could not be tried again for the crime despite their confession. Now, they're dead.

Hopefully, the exhumation and an autopsy will confirm it is indeed Emmett in the grave and find new evidence that can conclusively prove Bryant and Milan's guilt and any others that may have been involved.

Emmett Till, wrested from peace for justice. May it be done in spades.