Emmett Till Memorial Commission
On August 28, 1955, 14-year old Emmett Till was kidnapped in the middle of the night from his uncleís home near Money, Mississippi, by at least two men, one from LeFlore and one from Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. Till, a black youth from Chicago visiting family in Mississippi, was later murdered, and his body thrown into the Tallahatchie River. He had been accused of whistling at a white woman in Money. His badly beaten body was found days later in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. The Grand Jury meeting in Sumner, Mississippi, indicted Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam for the crime of murder. These two men were then tried on this charge and were acquitted by an all-white, all-male jury after a deliberation of just over an hour. Within three months of their acquittal the two men confessed to the murder. Before the trial began, Tillís mother had sought assistance from federal officials, under the terms of the so-called “Lindbergh Law,” which made kidnapping a federal crime, but received no aid. Only a renewed request in December 2002 from Tillís mother, supported by Mississippi District Attorney Joyce Chiles and the Emmett Till Justice Campaign, yielded a new investigation.
The Emmett Till Memorial Commission was established by the Tallahatchie County Board of Supervisors for the purpose of fostering racial harmony and reconciliation; to seek federal, state, and private funds and grants to initially restore the Tallahatchie County Courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi; to explore the restoration of other buildings and sites of historical value; and to promote educational tours of the courthouse and other sites in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi.
Here are some of the initiatives we are undertaking:
At 10 a.m. on October 2, 2007, the ETMC gathered at the Sumner Courthouse for a memorial ceremony, as well as the unveiling of the first in a series of historical markers about the murder of Emmett Till and the trial of Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam. More than 400 people attended, and the event was covered widely by the press. Following the ceremony was a bus tour of the sites significant to the Emmett Till story.
We have created a brochure and driving tour about the events around the murder of Emmett Till, with markers located at some of the most significant sites. At the memorial event on October 2, we unveiled the first historical marker at the Sumner Courthouse.
In early 2007, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History awarded $50,000 for the restoration of the Tallahatchie County courthouse, the site of the trial and aquittal of Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam for the murder of Emmett Till. We are working with Belinda Stewart Architects to restore the courthouse to the near-exact state it was in during the 1955 trial so that it will serve as an interpretive site for the historical significance of the murder of Emmett Till and subsequent miscarriage of justice.