Category Archives: Emmett Till

Emmett Louis Till

Emmett Louis Till

Emmylou Harris…”My Name Is Emmett Till”
In the mid-20th century, most Americans worried about atomic weapons.

Today the fear of terrorism has replaced our fear of an atomic apocalypse...mostly.

We consider terrorists  foreigners.  Of course there have been example of domestic terrorism and throughout American histroy a whole class of Americans were under the constant fear of domestic terrorists, vigilante injustice, lynching.

Emmett Louis Till Emmett Louis Till

The story of Emmett Till is one of the better known examples of the thousands of black Americans who were mistreated, tortured, and killed by domestic terrorists.

There are many articles and books about Emmett Till and the horrors that surround his final moments. This piece is simply a chronological listing of his final days and the decades of injustice that followed.

Reverend George Lee

Emmett Louis Till

On May 7, 1955 the Reverend George Lee, a grocery owner and NAACP field worker in Belzoni, Mississippi, was shot and killed at point blank range while driving in his car after trying to vote. At his funeral, Lee’s widow ordered his casket be opened to show the effects of shotgun pellets to the face—a rebuttal to the official version that Lee died in a car accident. Shortly before his death Lee had preached, “Pray not for your mom and pop—they’ve gone to heaven. Pray you can make it through this hell.”  (see May 31)

Moses Wright

Emmett Louis Till

In early August 1955 Emmett Till's great uncle Moses Wright had traveled from Mississippi to Chicago to visit family. At the end of his stay, Wright planned to take Till's cousin, Wheeler Parker, back to Mississippi with him to visit relatives. Emmett learned of these plans he begged his mother to let him go along. Initially, Mamie Till said no. She wanted to take a road trip to Omaha, Nebraska and attempted to lure Till to join her with the promise of open-road driving lessons. But Till desperately wanted to spend time with his cousins in Mississippi. She gave permission.

Emmett Till

Emmett Louis Till

August 19, 1955: Till’s mother gave Emmett his late father's signet ring, engraved with the initials L.T.  Louis Till had died in 1945 while a private in Europe during World War II. 

August 20, 1955: Mamie Till drove her son to the 63rd Street station in Chicago. They kissed goodbye and Till boarded a southbound train headed for Mississippi. 

August 21, 1965: Till arrived in Money, Mississippi to stay at the home of his great uncle Moses Wright. 

Bryant’s Grocery

Emmett Louis Till

August 24, 1955: Emmett Till and a group of teenagers entered Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market in Money, Mississippi to buy refreshments after a long day picking cotton in the hot afternoon sun. Till purchased bubble gum, and some of the kids with him would later report that he either whistled at, flirted with, or touched the hand of the store's white female clerk—and wife of the owner—Carolyn Bryant. 
Emmitt Till murdered
August 28, 1955: at approximately 2:30 AM Roy Bryant, Carolyn's husband, and his half brother J.W. Milam kidnapped Emmett Till from Moses Wright's home. They then brutally beat, dragged him to the bank of the Tallahatchie River, shot him in the head, tied him with barbed wire to a large metal fan, and shoved his mutilated body into the water. 

Moses Wright reported Till's disappearance to the local authorities. 

August 29, 1955:  authorities arrested J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant on kidnapping charges. They are jailed in Greenwood, Mississippi and held without bond. (see Aug 31)

August 31, 1955: Emmett Till's decomposed corpse was pulled from Mississippi's Tallahatchie River. Moses Wright identifies the body from a ring with the initials L.T.

September 1, 1955: Mississippi Governor Hugh White ordered  local officials to "fully prosecute" Milam and Bryant.

Emmett Till’s return to Chicago

Emmett Louis Till

September 2, 1955: in Chicago, Mamie Till arrived at the Illinois Central Terminal to receive Emmett's casket. Family and media surround her. She collapsed when she saw the casket. 

September 3, 1955: as mentioned above, in May the widow of Reverend George Lee had decided to have an open casket for her  husband. 

Mamie Till decided to do the same. "Let the people see what they did to my boy!"

Thousands waited in line to see Emmett's brutally beaten body.

Emmett Louis Till

September 6, 1955: Emmett Till was buried at Burr Oak Cemetery. 
Indictment for murder and trial
September 7, 1955: A Tallahatchie County grand jury indicted Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam for the murder and kidnapping of Emmett Till. Conviction on either charge could carry the death penalty. They both plead innocent and remain in jail until the start of the trial.

September 19, 1955: the murder trial (only) began in Sumner, Mississippi, the county seat of Tallahatchie County. Jury selection began. Law banned any blacks and all women from serving. The 12-man jury consisted of nine farmers, two carpenters and one insurance agent.

Mamie Till departed from Chicago's Midway Airport to attend the trial. (see Sept 20)

September 20, 1955: Judge Curtis Swango recessed the court to allow more witnesses to be found. It was the first time in Mississippi history that local law enforcement, local NAACP leaders, and black and white reporters had teamed up. They try to locate sharecroppers who saw Milam's truck and overheard Emmett being beaten.

September 21, 1955: Moses Wright accused the two white men in open court, an unthinkable thing to do in that place at that time. While on the witness stand, he stood up and pointed his finger at Milam and Bryant, and accused them of coming to his house and kidnapping Emmett.

September 22, 1955: the defense began presenting its witnesses. Carolyn Bryant testified outside the presence of the jury. Sheriff Strider testified that he thought the body pulled out of the river had been there "from ten to fifteen days," far too long to be that of Till. An embalmer testified that the body was "bloated beyond recognition."
Emmett Louis Till

September 23, 1955: after a 67-minute deliberation, the jury acquitted Milam and Bryant. One juror told a reporter that they wouldn't have taken so long if they hadn't stopped to drink pop. Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam stood before photographers, lighted up cigars, and kissed their wives in celebration.
Kidnapping charges dropped
Moses Wright and Willie Reed, another poor black Mississippian who testified, left Mississippi. Once there, Reed collapsed and suffered a nervous breakdown. (Reed, see July 18, 2013 below)

September 30, 1955: Milam and Bryant were released on bond. for the pending kidnapping charges.

November 9, 1955: returning to Mississippi one last time, Moses Wright and Willie Reed testified before a LeFlore County grand jury in Greenwood, Mississippi. The grand jury refused to indict Milam or Bryant for kidnapping. The two men go free.
The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi”

Emmett Louis Till

January 24, 1956: an article by William Bradford Huie in Look magazine appears. It is titled, "The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi." Protected by double-jeopardy,  Milam and Bryant admit to the murder. 

They detailed how they beat Till with a gun, shot him and threw his body in the Tallahatchie River with a heavy cotton-gin fan attached with barbed wire to his neck to weigh him down. The two killers were paid a reported $4,000 for their participation in the article.

January 22, 1957: Huie wrote another article for Look magazine, "What's Happened to the Emmett Till Killers?" Huie wrote that "Milam does not regret the killing, though it has brought him nothing but trouble." Blacks have stopped frequenting stores owned by the Milam and Bryant families and put them out of business. Bryant takes up welding for income, and the community ostracized both men .

E. Frederic Morrow

Emmett Louis Till

E. Frederic Morrow moved to the White House on July 10, 1955. He  was an aide to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and as such he became the first African-American to serve in that capacity. His autobiography vividly describes his difficulties in trying to persuade the administration to take a strong stand on civil rights. Morrow, for example, tried unsuccessfully to get President Eisenhower to issue a statement regarding Emmett Till's murder.  

Morrow did, however, finally convince Eisenhower to meet with civil rights leaders in the White House, a meeting that occurred on June 23, 1958. 

Deaths

December 31, 1980: J. W. Milam died in Mississippi of cancer.

September 1, 1994: Roy Bryant Sr., 63, died at the Baptist Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi of cancer.

January 6, 2003: Mamie Till Mobley died of heart failure, at age 81. Her death came just two weeks before The Murder of Emmett Till was to premiere nationally on PBS.
Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007
October 7, 2008: introduced in 2007, President Bush signed the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007.  It tasked the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the FBI with reviewing, investigating and assessing for prosecutive merit more than 100 unsolved civil rights era homicides.

Lil Wayne

February 13, 2013: Airickca Gordon-Taylor, director of the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation (founded in 2009), requested that Lil Wayne remove Emmett Till’s name from his verse on Future’s “Karate Chop.” Gordon-Taylor calls Wayne’s use of Till’s name “disappointing, dishonorable, and outright disrespectful to our family.”

Guesting on “Karate Chop,” a single by Atlanta rapper Future, Lil Wayne contributed the third verse of the remix, which began:
Pop a lot of pain pills

‘Bout to put rims on my skateboard wheels

Beat that p—y up like Emmett Till
February 18, 2013: Epic Records Chairman Antonio "L.A." Reid apologized to the Till family and said that his label was working to remove from circulation a remix of the track "Karate Chop."

Willie Reed dies

July 18, 2013: Willie Reed, who had changed his name to Willie Louis after the murder trial of Emmett Till and had moved to Chicago, died. Louis, one of the last living witnesses for the prosecution in the Till case, died in Oak Lawn, Ill., a Chicago suburb. He was 76.
Emmett Till Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act of 2016
December 16, 2016: President Obama signed the Emmett Till Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act of 2016. The Act allowed the Department of Justice and the FBI to reopen unsolved civil rights crimes.committed before 1980. The legislation is an expansion of a previous bill of a similar name signed into law in 2008.

Carolyn Bryant Donham admits lying

22,433 days days later

January 27, 2017: in a Vanity Fair magazine article, Duke University professor Timothy B. Tyson reported that Carolyn Bryant Donham (the woman who accused Till of inappropriate behavior) told him that the story she and others told about Emmett Till were false. Tyson wrote that Donham said of her long-ago allegations—that Emmett grabbed her and was menacing and sexually crude toward her--“that part is not true.” Tyson also wrote a book, The Blood of Emmett Till, about the murder.

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September 23 Peace Love Activism

September 23 Peace Love Activism

Native Americans

Battle of Wood Lake
September 23 Peace Love Activism
September 23, 1862: the Battle of Wood Lake. After delays due to forces needed for the Civil War, a large regular army contingent overwhelmingly defeated the Dakota forces. (see December 1862)
Veronica
September 23, 2013: Veronica, the Cherokee girl at the center of a long custody dispute, was handed over to her adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, of South Carolina. Veronica, 4, had been living in the Cherokee Nation with her father, Dusten Brown, since she was 2. Before that, she lived with the Capobiancos. Her adoption was made final earlier this year, but Mr. Brown had appealed. The girl was handed over after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled it would not intervene.

Cherokee Nation spokeswoman Amanda Clinton confirmed the announcement via social media about an hour after the handover. “It is with a heavy heart that I can confirm Veronica Brown was peacefully handed over to Matt and Melanie Capobianco (this) evening,” she tweeted. “Updates will be forthcoming, but the transition was handled peacefully and with dignity by all parties. Please keep Veronica in your prayers.” (see Oct 10)

US Labor History

September 23, 1886: a coalition of Knights of Labor and trade unionists in Chicago launched the United Labor party, calling for an 8-hour day, government ownership of telegraph and telephone companies, and monetary and land reform. The party elected seven state assembly men and one senator (see Dec 8)

Anarchism in the US

Leon Czolgosz
September 23, 1901: Leon Czolgosz was put on trial for assassinating US President William McKinley at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. (see Sept 24)
Colorado Fuel and Iron Company
September 23, 1913: miners working for the John D. Rockefeller-owned Colorado Fuel and Iron Company went on strike. Organized by the United Mine Workers Association, the miners moved their families to union tent colonies in the countryside away from the mining camps. (see April 20, 1914)

FREE SPEECH

September 23, 1943: six conscientious objectors, in prison for refusing to cooperate with the draft during WW II, began a hunger strike on this day to protest the censorship of mail and reading material in prison. The strike ended in December 1943. James V. Bennett, head of the federal Bureau of Prisons, ended the censorship but retained the right to open and read mail for security purposes. One participant in the hunger strike, David Dellinger, in the 1960s became a leader in the anti-Vietnam War movement. (FS, see April 4, 1944; Dellinger, see March 20, 1969)

BLACK HISTORY

Emmett Till
September 23 Peace Love Activism
Mr. & Mrs. Roy (Carolyn) Bryant (left) with Mr. & Mrs. J.W. Milam showed happiness at a the verdict delivered in Sumner, Miss. Friday, September 23, 1955.
September 23, 1955:  the jury acquitted Milam and Bryant of murdering Emmett Till after the jury deliberates 67 minutes. One juror told a reporter that they wouldn't have taken so long if they hadn't stopped to drink pop. Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam stand before photographers, light up cigars and kiss their wives in celebration of the not guilty verdict.

Moses Wright and another poor black Mississippian who testified, Willie Reed, leave Mississippi and were smuggled to Chicago. Once there, Reed collapsed and suffered a nervous breakdown. (see Emmett Till; Willie Reed, see July 18, 2013)
School Desegregation

September 23 Peace Love Activism

September 23, 1957: nine black students who had entered Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas were forced to withdraw because of a white mob outside. (History dot com article) (see Sept 24)

September 24 Music et al

LSD

September 23 Peace Love Activism

September 23, 1967: Saturday Evening Post cover features a “Hippie” and a story about the so-called Hippie Cult. (see November)
The Letter
September 23 – October 20, 1967: “The Letter” by the Boxtops #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

...and a great cover by Joe Cocker w Leon Russell.

Whatever Get You Through the Night
September 23, 1974: Lennon single, Whatever Get You Through the Night released. It would be Lennon's only solo #1 single in the US during his lifetime. Lennon was the last member of The Beatles to achieve an American number one solo hit. The recording featured Elton John on harmony vocals and piano. While in the studio, Elton bet Lennon that the song would top the charts. (see Nov 16)

Vietnam

Chicago 8

02 Nov 1969, Chicago, Illinois, USA --- Portraits of the defendants in the "Chicago 8" trial for conspiracy to incite violence during the 1968 Democratic Convention. Although found guilty, all conviction in this trial were overturned on appeal. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

September 23, 1969: the Chicago Eight trial began. The defendants included David Dellinger of the National Mobilization Committee (NMC); Rennie Davis and Thomas Hayden of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS); Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, founders of the Youth International Party ("Yippies"); Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers; and two lesser known activists, Lee Weiner and John Froines. The group was charged with conspiracy to cross state lines with intent to incite a riot. All but Seale were represented by attorneys William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass.

Early in the trial, presiding Judge Julius Hoffaman (no relation to Abbie) ordered Bobby Seale bound and gagged in the courtroom because of his outbursts. Seale’s trial will eventually be separated from the others’. (Chicago Eight, see October 28; Vietnam, see Oct 5)
September 23 Peace Love Activism

DEATH PENALTY

September 23, 2010:  Virginia executed Teresa Lewis for arranging the killings of her husband and a stepson over a $250,000 insurance payment. The 41-year-old was the first woman to be executed in the United States in five years. More than 7,300 appeals to stop the execution - the first of a woman in Virginia since 1912 - had been made to the governor in a state second only to Texas in the number of people it executes. Texas held the most recent U.S. execution of a woman in 2005. Out of more than 1,200 people put to death since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, only 11 have been women.

Lewis, who defense attorneys said was borderline mentally disabled, had inspired other inmates by singing Christian hymns in prison. Her execution stirred an unusual amount of attention because of her gender, claims she lacked the intelligence to mastermind the killings and the post-conviction emergence of defense evidence that one of the triggermen manipulated her." Under US law, anyone with an IQ under 70 cannot be executed. Lewis was judged to have an IQ of 72. (ABC news article)(see January 21, 2011)

Sexual Abuse of Children


Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, former nuncio to the Dominican Republic, is pictured during a 2011 ceremony in Santo Domingo. The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found the archbishop guilty of sexual abuse of minors and has ordered that he be laicized. RNS photo courtesy Orlando Barria/CNS

September 23, 2014: Vatican officials announced that Pope Francis had ordered the arrest of former Polish archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, accused of child sex abuse in the Dominican Republic.

A Vatican tribunal had defrocked Wesolowski earlier in the year. He was under house arrest inside Vatican City due to the “express desire” of Pope Francis, the Vatican said in a statement. 

The Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said, “The seriousness of the allegations has prompted the official investigation to impose a restrictive measure that … consists of house arrest, with its related limitations, in a location within the Vatican City State.” (see Oct 14)

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September 21 Peace Love Activism

September 21 Peace Love Activism

US Labor History

September 21, 1921: a collector from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (now the Internal Revenue Service) assessed $6,312.79 in excise taxes against Drexel, a furniture manufacturing company in North Carolina, for employing a child under fourteen during the 1919 tax year. Drexel paid the tax under protest and sued for a refund. (Nov 3)

BLACK HISTORY

Emmett Till

September 21 Peace Love Activism

September 21, 1955: Moses Wright, Emmett Till's great uncle, does the unthinkable--he accused two white men in open court. While on the witness stand, he stands up and points his finger at Milam and Bryant, and accuses them of coming to his house and kidnapping Emmett. (see Sept 23)
James Byrd
September 21, 2011: Lawrence  Brewer, murderer of James Byrd, Jr, executed. Shawn Berry was sentenced to life in prison. John King remained on death row. (News media report)
Troy Davis
September 21, 2011: the State of Georgia executed Troy Davis despite evidence of his innocence. Davis, a black man, was sentenced to death in the 1989 fatal shooting of white off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia. Supporters of Davis, including the NAACP, Amnesty International, former President Jimmy Carter, and Pope Benedict XVI, had been encouraged by a 2009 United States Supreme Court ruling permitting him to present evidence of his innocence in court, but when the federal trial judge denied relief, the Court refused to review the case and an execution date was set.

Georgia's Board of Pardons and Paroles, not the governor, has exclusive authority to grant clemency. Two days before Davis’s scheduled execution, the board held a full clemency hearing, where it heard from Davis's attorneys and supporters, prosecutors, and the victim's family. By that time, seven of the prosecution's nine key witnesses against Davis had either recanted or backed off their trial testimony and others had come forward to give sworn statements that the State's main witness had himself confessed to the shooting.

The evidence undercutting Davis’s guilt was so compelling that three jurors who sentenced him to death at his 1991 trial urged the board to stop the execution. In addition, more than 600,000 people worldwide signed petitions urging the board to commute Davis's sentence, citing concerns that executing a man amid so much uncertainty about his guilt would deeply undermine the public's confidence in the justice system. The board denied clemency on September 20, 2011. In his final words, Davis professed his innocence, expressed condolences to Officer MacPhail’s family, and expressed appreciation to his family and supporters. He was executed by lethal injection on September 21, 2011, and pronounced dead at 11:08 p.m. (CNN report) (BH, see Oct 16; DP, see April 25, 2012)

LGBTQ

Daughters of Bilitis

September 21 Peace Love Activism

September 21, 1955: In San Francisco, the Daughters of Bilitis became the first lesbian rights organization in the US. The organization hosted social functions, providing alternatives to lesbian bars and clubs, which were frequently raided by police.

The name Bilitis is the name given to a lesbian contemporary of Sappho by the French poet Pierre Louÿs in his collection, The Songs of Bilitis (1894). (LGBTQ, see August 30, 1956; Bilitis, see September 7, 1957)
Defense of Marriage Act
September 21, 1996: President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law. The law defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman and that no state is required to recognize a same-sex marriage from out of state. It established a Federal definition of: (1) ‘marriage' as only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife; and (2) ‘spouse' as only a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife.”  (see Feb 21, 1997)
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
September 21, 2010: The US Senate struck down a bill that would end Don't Ask, Don't Tell with a vote of 56–43, almost completely along party lines. (see Oct 13)
Kentucky
September 21, 2015: gay couples in Kentucky said altered marriage licenses issued by Kim Davis were invalid and a federal judge should order her office to reissue them or put the office in receivership and have someone else do it. When Davis returned to work, she altered the license forms to say they were issued under the authority of the federal court instead of her office. On this date, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union asked the judge to force the clerk’s office to reissue the licenses. (see Sept 24)

September 21 Music et al

Blue Velvet
September 21 – October 11, 1963, “Blue Velvet” by Bobby Vinton #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Written in 1950, it had been recorded already by Tony Bennett (1951) and The Clovers (1955).

“Harper Valley, PTA”
September 21 – 27, 1968: “Harper Valley, PTA” by Jeannie C Riley #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

INDEPENDENCE DAYS

Malta

September 21 Peace Love Activism

September 21, 1964: Malta independent from United Kingdom. (see Oct 24)
Belize

September 21 Peace Love Activism

September 21, 1981: Belize independent of the United Kingdom. (see Nov 1)
Armenia

September 21 Peace Love Activism

September 21, 1991: Armenia declared independence from the Soviet Union. (Dissolution, see Oct 27; ID, see Oct 8)
September 21 Peace Love Activism

United Farm Workers

September 21, 1983: Rene Lopez, a 21 year old, farm worker, was fatally wounded after voting in an election at the Sikkema Dairy Ranch. The UFW charged that Lopez was shot by the brother-in-law of owner, Ralph Sikkema and an accomplice, Donato Estrada.  David Stirling, the General Counsel to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, dismissed charges on the basis of lack of evidence. (see October 8, 2012)

Hurricane Katrina

September 21, 2005: the official death toll was raised to 1,036, with 63 additional deaths recognized in Louisiana. This marked the first time since 1928 that a natural disaster in the U.S. had been officially acknowledged to have killed at least 1,000 people. State-by-state death tolls: Louisiana 799, Mississippi 218, Florida 14, Alabama 2, Georgia 2, Tennessee 1. (see January 3, 2007)

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