Feature Story #3: Emmett Till
By: Jade Ashlee Atkins
You would never know of the horrors that happened the morning of August 28th, 1955 if it wasn’t for the seemingly out of place bright purple land marker by the side of the Tallahatchie River.
The sign said that the actual site of the extraction of Emmett Till’s lifeless, mutilated body was about 2.6 miles down the way.
The tour guide Jerome G. Little, said that the sign had recently been removed by someone about two weeks ago and had not yet been replaced.
One can only imagine the shock that came from the discovery of a 14-year-old boys body weighed down by a 75 lbs, cotton gin, decomposed by the elements.
The murder, which is noted for being the launch of the Civil Rights Movement, was one of the most horrendous hate crimes to have ever struck the United States.
Till, or “Bo” as many called him, was known for being a prankster, always laughing and cracking a joke.
The true story of what actually happened that August 24th afternoon at the grocery store, is one that sadly the world will never know.
Some say, Till simply whistled to the woman, Carolyn Bryant whose husband Roy Bryant owned the store. Others say, Emmett said “Hey, baby” and touched her hand as he was handing her his money. Mrs. Bryant said the boy grabber her around the waist and was making sexual gestures towards her. Although, how a child of fourteen could reach clear across a counter to grab a woman’s waist then have enough time to make a gesture, I do not know.
Nonetheless, Emmett Till was the suspect at large who later, as the killers Roy Bryant and his brother-in-law J.W. Milam, said in an interview with Look! magazine “would pay for what he had done.”
Upon viewing the body of her slain son, Mamie Till, asked a question that is still unanswered “Why did they have to shoot him?
Why did they have to shoot him? All but two of the teeth his mother loved so dearly had been knocked out. His head deformed, with a nose that had been smashed in and an eye that was “half way to his chest.”
Little took great pride in showing each and every land marker as well as giving insight into the past.
At the grocery store, or what was left of it, Little told us that Till and his cousin, agreed that they wouldn’t tell Till’s uncle for fear that if they did Till would be sent back to Chicago.
Their withheld information played a volatile role in the murder.
The tour had started at the boarded and worn down funeral home, which like the river and courthouse had the oddly placed purple land marker.
Without a tour guide, we quickly realized that none of these markers could be found by travelers just passing by.
It angered most of us that these historic buildings looked so run down and had had no maintenance over the years.
The buildings where a 14-year-old boy from Chicago was murdered, shown and the murderers tried.
One of the students later said that they had been to Pearl Harbor, and the same eerie sense that something terrible had happened there was what they had feel.
He was right.
Even if one had never heard of Emmett Till, and if the markers which told a brief history of what happened weren’t there, and if the men who were alive when it happened had all died, there is no doubt that you could feel the presence of the terrible tragedy that happened August 28th, 1955.
Feature Story #3: Emmett Till