Emmett Till Relatives Gather at Boy’s Grave 60 Years Later

29 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

60 Years After Emmett Till’s Murder, Black Lives Still Matter.

ALSIP, Ill. – Relatives and civil rights activists gathered at the gravesite of Emmett Till to remember the black Chicago teenager 60 years after he was killed for whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. In 1955, when 14-year-old Emmett Till traveled from his home in Chicago to stay with a great-uncle in Tallahatchie County, Miss., his mother was nervous.

While the parallels between Till’s murder on August 28, 1955, and the shooting death of Michael Brown on August 9, 2014, are not direct, the similarities are nonetheless undeniable. They’re also trying to continue the legacy of his late mother, Mamie Till Mobley, who worked with young people and encouraged them to challenge injustice in their everyday lives. In 1862, the Second Battle of Bull Run (also known as Second Manassas) began in Prince William County, Virginia, during the Civil War; the result was a Confederate victory. Both events galvanized a black community that had been unheard and spawned movements around what many saw as particularly egregious racial incidents. “It’s not exactly like Jim Crow, but when you have confessed murderers go free, a sham of a legal process and people not being held accountable … When we reflect back, we’re seeing things that are very similar,” said Deborah Watts, a cousin of Till’s and co-founder of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation. “Black lives do matter.

In 1922, the first-ever radio commercial aired on station WEAF in New York City; the 10-minute advertisement was for the Queensboro Realty Co., which had paid a fee of $100. Emmett’s death … helped to wake up America.” Till’s death is seen by many as a major catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement, and Brown’s is largely regarded as the beginning of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Deborah Watts of Minneapolis, sits in a Jackson, Miss., hotel on Thursday, and speaks about events in Mississippi and Illinois this week that commemorate the 60th anniversary of the slaying of her cousin, Emmett Till. (Rogelio V.

When we see the case of Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown or Tamir Rice, where young Black males are shot down by authority figures and nobody’s punished, it reminds us of the most celebrated case where a Black teen was killed and nobody was brought to justice.” History notes that Till was with a group of teenagers who had stopped at a local grocery store to buy snacks when he broke Mississippi’s racial code of conduct. While neither were the first incidences of violence against black people in an unequal society, seeing the bodies of these young men haunted, angered and rallied many African-Americans into action. In 1964, two days of race-related rioting erupted in North Philadelphia over a false rumor that white police officers had beaten to death a pregnant black woman. In 1955, thousands of blacks were shocked and sickened to see Till’s bloated, disfigured corpse on the pages of Jet Magazine and at his open casket funeral. “The center of gravity was Emmett Till,” said comedian and activist Dick Gregory, who was 23 when Till was killed. “It was a different type of story. Everybody’s got an Emmett Till story.” Similarly, African-Americans grew enraged as the image of 18-year-old Brown’s body lay on the concrete — in plain view of the residents of a surrounding apartment complex for more than four hours — spread across social media.

An all-white jury acquitted the defendants (the husband and brother-in-law of the woman who complained about Till), who later confessed to the killing in a raw, unremorseful interview with Look magazine. In 1972, Mark Spitz of the United States won the first two of his seven gold medals at the Munich Olympics, finishing first in the 200-meter butterfly and anchoring the 400-meter freestyle relay. One said that they had intended only to beat the teen, but decided to kill him when he showed no fear — and refused to grovel. “Well, what else could we do? Louis who has been an active protester in Ferguson for the past year, said that while she learned about Till’s story as a child, she didn’t connect it to the larger picture of black liberation until it was in her front yard. “I didn’t contextualize it to Ferguson,” said Reed, 25. “I’m sure there was someone my age who was radicalized through that moment, when they saw his body in that open casket.

It was being able to understand how these moments exist, where it takes a tragedy to light a fire under a community.” Indeed Till was on the minds of many last August: in the days after Brown’s death and his Aug. 25 funeral, some of Till’s relatives attended the services in solidarity. In 1995, a mortar shell tore through a crowded market in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, killing some three dozen people and triggering NATO airstrikes against the Bosnian Serbs. As long as I live and can do anything about it, [n—–s] are gonna stay in their place.” Because Milam and his accomplice had already been tried once for Till’s murder, the public confession did not yield more charges. In the Till murder, it was the Black Press that relentlessly covered the murder and trial in an attempt to fully expose the horrors of the segregated South.

As the Los Angeles Times later put it: “If Rosa Parks showed the potential of defiance, [some historians] say, Emmett Till’s death warned of a bleak future without it.” Sixty years later, at a time when race relations are once more at the front of the American mind, Till’s name is still invoked as a reminder of the worst consequences of ignoring the problem. The small Emmett Till Interpretive Center opened across the street from the courthouse, and it has attracted school and church groups from across the country. “We get to understand that race and racism are not something unique to the Mississippi Delta,” Weems said. “It’s an issue that faces the entire nation.”

In Mississippi, civil rights reporter Simeon Booker — who covered the Till case for national black newsmagazine Jet in 1955 — recalled life in the Deep South for African-Americans as completely foreign to lifelong Northerners like him. “It was like you were going to another country, where you didn’t speak the language,” he said. “I’d heard about the South, but I didn’t know what it meant until I confronted it.” Likewise, the stories of hundreds African-Americans living in and around Ferguson in the wake of Brown’s murder — covered by the news media and later referenced in the Department of Justice’s report on the city’s predatory police department and court system — also described lives that were unrecognizable to much of the country. U.S. and Afghan forces repelled attackers wearing American uniforms and suicide vests in a pair of simultaneous assaults before dawn on NATO bases near the Pakistan border.

Despite the intense media coverage and overwhelming calls for Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson to be prosecuted, a grand jury in November declined to find him criminally responsible for killing Brown. Both the book and the play were co-written by Till’s late mother, who became a prominent civil-rights figure following her son’s funeral, when she insisted on an open casket so the world could see what had been done to him.

A gunman in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, shot and killed the mother of his two children, the woman’s boyfriend and three other people before fleeing with the children to Rancho Cucamonga, California, where he killed himself (the children were unharmed). One year ago: Comedian Joan Rivers was rushed to New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital after she suffered cardiac arrest at a doctor’s office where she’d gone for a routine outpatient procedure (Rivers died a week later at age 81). Acknowledging he “didn’t get it right” with a two-game suspension for Ravens running back Ray Rice, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced tougher penalties for players accused of domestic violence, including six weeks for a first offense and at least a year for a second. But what was surprising was the bravery and courage of Till’s uncle Mose Wright, who stood up during the trial and pointed to Bryant and Milam as the men who had kidnapped Till.

In doing so, Wright put his own life in danger and immediately left Mississippi soon after. “Understanding the context in the South at that time, for him to do that was nothing short of courageous,” says Paula Johnson, law professor and co-director of the Cold Case Justice Initiative at Syracuse University.

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