Emmett Louis Till
This is something that is near and dear to my heart. My cousin Emmett Till is 71 today and Keith A. Beauchamp, an author and documentary film maker who made The untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, continued his support today in an article he did for Investigation Discovery’s “The Injustice Files”. I had to share it and here it is in it’s entirety.
Keith A. Beauchamp: Till Death Do Us Part
Today marks what would have been the 71stbirthday of Emmett Louis Till, the 14-year-old black Chicago youth who became the catalyst that sparked the American Civil Rights Movement.
In August 1955, Till went to visit his southern relatives in the Mississippi Delta. In less than a week’s time, he would be abducted from his great-uncle’s home, tortured and then murdered for one of the oldest taboos of the South: whistling at a white woman in public.
Two men, J.W. Milam and his half-brother Roy Bryant (the woman’s husband), were soon arrested but later acquitted in a court of law by an all-white, all-male jury, awakening the “Sleeping Giant” of the black global community.
On May 10, 2004, my dream came true when federal officials announced that the Till case was being reopened because of research gathered during the production of my documentary, The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till. With the creator’s help, it was so rewarding to fulfill a promise that I gave Till’s mother, the late Mamie Till-Mobley, before she passed away on January 6, 2003, just one year before she could see the fruits of our labor at work.
After an exhaustive new investigation into the case presented by myself and the FBI, a local grand jury of Sunflower County decided to pass a ‘No True Bill,’ closing the books on one of the greatest atrocities of our time – another addition to the Ghosts of Mississippi.
Forty-nine years it took to bring a new awareness and commitment to the Till case. It was Mother Mobley’s wish that this new awareness would not only render justice in her son’s murder but also shine a bright light on other victims who lost their lives during the Civil Rights struggle, past and present.
You can purchase the documentary “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till” Here!
Over the years, I have read many articles about the outcome of the Till investigation, and it was a travesty that justice never came. One thing I do know for sure is that the new awareness and diligent search for the facts were not a waste of time. The search for justice in the Till case coincides with what we are still dealing with today: turbulent times that should be addressed no matter how long it takes.
The new look at the Till case enabled a renewed national conversation about race and justice, which arguably had a huge chain of reaction. In April 2005, Florida Governor Jeb Bush asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to review the case of Johnnie Mae Chappell, a 34-year-old mother of 10, murdered by Klansmen in Jacksonville, Fla., while walking home.
In February of that year, former Florida Attorney General (and later Governor) Charlie Crist announced the reopening of the 1951 murder case of NAACP activist Harry T. Moore and his wife Harriet, who were killed when a bomb was placed under their home in Mims. Though the Klansmen responsible for the murder are all dead, the murder has been successfully solved.
In July 2006, state and federal authorities met in Jackson, Miss., to pool resources and information in the investigations of the 1964 Franklin County murders of Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore as well as the 1967 car-bombing death of Wharlest Jackson. Forty years after the crimes, reputed Klansman James Ford Seale was indicted for the murders of Dee and Moore and later sentenced to three life terms. Seale was incarcerated at the Federal Correction Institution in Indiana, where he died in 2011.
In June 2005, I attended a solemn ceremony where the U.S. Senate officially apologized for the 104-year delay in passing an anti-lynching bill. It was a long time coming but, thankfully, the progress didn’t stop there.
In July 2005, by an act of the Mississippi State Legislature, a 32-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 49 East was renamed the Emmett Till Memorial Highway. It covers ground in Mississippi’s Greenwood and Tutweiler Counties, where the abduction and murder took place.
Additionally, a Chicago bridge was renamed the Emmett Till Memorial Bridge and the James McCosh Elementary School that Till attended was rededicated as the Emmett Louis Till Math & Science Academy. Even more recently, the city of Glendora, Miss., has created the Emmett Till Memorial Museum on the site where his murderers retrieved a blast wheel from a cotton gin fan that they then used to sink his body in the Tallahatchie River.
Finally, the Emmett Till Civil Rights Bill was passed and put into law with the support of President Bush and President Obama. There’s also an ongoing Civil Rights Cold Case Initiative by the FBI and Department of Justice.
Emmett Till, a youth from Chicago, remains at the very epicenter of American race relations and will metaphorically continue to be the “poster child” of many who suffer injustice throughout the United States and abroad. His death has undeniably left its indelible mark on history, culture, and people from all walks of life.
Chicago, once the “Promise Land” for many blacks moving from the South to the Mid West during the Great Migration, now finds itself fighting a rise in modern day lynchings, black genocide. Since the beginning of the year, murders among African-Americans have risen in Till’s birth place. Almost daily we hear of some innocent young soul being lost, a far cry from 1955 when the city came together to protest and mourn Till’s horrific murder. What would Mamie Till-Mobley say about her beloved Chicago today?
In a world where black youths are still falling victim to racial prejudices and gun violence, I believe she would tell us that Emmett’s death should always serve as a reminder of all the work we still must do in this country.
Keith A. Beauchamp is the Host of ID’s ‘The Injustice Files’