Wednesday, July 18News That Matters

The brutal Emmett Till murder case is being reopened. Here's what we know


William Brangham:

Emmett Till was a young boy from Chicago who, in 1955, was visiting family in Mississippi when he allegedly whistled and made a sexual remark to a white woman named Carolyn Bryant and then grabbed her.

This was the Jim Crow South. And for his alleged actions, Emmett Till was kidnapped by armed men, brutally beaten and shot in the head. His killers took a heavy piece of farm equipment, tied it around his neck with barbed wire and threw his body into the Tallahatchie River. It was discovered several days later.

Till’s mother, Mamie Till Bradley, demanded an open casket funeral for her son in Chicago. She wanted to show the nation exactly what racist violence looked like. Tens of thousands of people came to see Till’s mutilated body, and photos were published nationwide in mainly black publications.

The next month, two men, Carolyn Bryant’s husband and his half-brother, were tried for Till’s murder and acquitted by an all-white jury. In an interview afterwards, the men freely admitted they’d killed the young boy.

Last year, Timothy Tyson’s book “The Blood of Emmett Till” had this revelation. Carolyn Bryant admitted she lied about her interaction with Emmett Till, saying the teenager never — quote — “grabbed her around the waist or uttered obscenities,” as she had testified at trial. Bryant added — quote — “Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him.”

Timothy Tyson spoke with Jeffrey Brown about this revelation last year.

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