February is Black History Month, so it is appropriate for us to visit a grim episode in American race relations.
On August 19, 1955 Emmett Till went to Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market with a group of friends. He was enjoying a respite from picking cotton. The store clerk was a white woman by the name of Carolyn Bryant.
Till’s visit to the store ended with Bryant accusing him of either whistling at, flirting with or touching Bryant’s hand. The accusation was a scandal and it enraged Bryant’s husband, Roy.
Roy took matters into his own hands and partnered with his half brother J.W. Milam to get revenge. They kidnapped and brutally beat Till. The two men escalated in their perversion by tying Till to a large metal fan using barbed wire. In an act of ultimate desecration, they threw him in the Tallahatchie River and shot him in the head.
Emmett Till was 14 years old!
Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were tried by an all-white and all-male jury because blacks and women were not allowed to serve jury duty. The evidence against the two men was overwhelming. Even an eyewitness identified both men as the kidnappers. The jury deliberated and declared the two men not guilty.
Salt in the wound came when the men later admitted to committing the murder.
Till’s body was transferred to Chicago and his mother requested that his casket remain open for the funeral. The funeral took place at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ.
Till’s mother wanted the world to see what happened to her son. Here is what thousands of people saw as they filed pass his casket:
It has been 61 years since Carolyn Bryant accused Till of harassment. She finally admitted the truth according to an article written in TIME magazine on January 27, 2017. This is bitter-sweet news. We should be happy the truth finally came out, but we should wonder why it took so long.
Here is a helpful video about this story:
This blog post continues to honor the wishes of Till’s mother.