Three previous monuments were destroyed
By Frederick H. Lowe
The Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Sumner, Mississippi, on Saturday dedicated a bullet-proof sign honoring Emmett Till. The 500-pound sign replaces three others that either had been shot up by racists, including by members of a frat from the University of Mississippi, or had been thrown into a river.
Three Ole Miss frat brothers, posing with smiles and guns, shot up one of the signs. They were members of Kappa Alpha Order, whose spiritual founder is U.S. Civil War traitor General Robert E. Lee.
Two men carried the shot-up sign and placed it at the base of a Confederate statue on the University of Mississippi campus.
Relatives of Emmett Till attended the ceremony to see the sign installed in Graball Landing on the banks of the Tallahatchie River where Till’s bloated and beaten body was discovered after it unexpectedly floated to the water’s surface.
Till, a 14- year-old from Chicago, was spending the summer of 1955 with relatives in Money, Mississippi, where his mother believed he would be safe from Chicago gangs.
But two white men who brutally beat him and shot him in the head in what some call a lynching.
J.W. Milam and his half-brother, Roy Bryant, murdered Till. The teenager’s lifeless body, which had been weighted down so no one would ever find it, was thrown like a bag of garbage into the Tallahatchie, a 230-mile long river that flows through Mississippi.
Jet magazine, whose editor and founder was John H. Johnson, published a photo of the open casket, showing Till’s face disfigured beyond recognition. His teeth were missing, one eye was hanging from its socket and one ear had been severed. Mamie Till, his mother, leaned over the casket, and wept uncontrollably.
But even in death, Till did not find peace.
His mother buried her son in Burr Oak Cemetery, an African American-owned cemetery in Alsip, Illinois. Investigators discovered Till’s casket had been desecrated along with others in a scheme to resell burial plots.
The first sign that notified visitors this was where Till’s body was discovered was thrown into the Tallahatchie. The next two signs were riddled with bullets. These incidents occurred over 11 years.
The new sign is heavy and sleek. It is made of thick AR500 steel and sheathed by an acrylic panel.
In the summer of 1956, an all- white, all- male jury acquitted Milam and Bryant of murdering Till. The jury took a little longer reaching a verdict than expected.
It wasn’t because crime’s brutality made some them want to vomit or even rethink their decision.
Just the opposite.
One juror explained they took time to finish their soda pops, which were bottles of Coca Cola.
Till’s crime was that he allegedly whistled at Milam’s wife, Carolyn. Years later in a book, she denied the incident ever happened.
Ed Bradley, correspondent for CBS’s 60 minutes, reported on the news program that Henry Lee Loggins, a black former employee of J.W. Milam, may have participated in Till’s kidnapping and murder.
Loggins denied any involvement. Others said they saw Loggins, Milam and Bryant standing on the porch of the house where Till was staying because he was kidnapped. Loggins was accused of leading Bryant and Milam to the house where Till was staying. In the segregated South black homes did not have addresses.
Till’s brutal murder set off a chain of events no one could imagine.
Look magazine paid Milam and Bryant for an interview. During the interview, they admitted they murdered the teenager.
Bryant and Milam owned a store and many of the establishment’s customers were black. Blacks boycotted the store and it went out of business.
Rosa Parks, a seamstress, was sitting on a bus owned by a Chicago company in Montgomery, Alabama. She was angry about what happened to Till.
A white man ordered Parks to give up her seat him, the custom of time. She refused. Police arrested her.
E.D. Nixon, a Pullman Porter and local civil rights leader, bailed Parks out of jail.
Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, a teacher at Alabama State College and leader of the Women’s Political Council, called for an organized a bus boycott, which led to one of the greatest victories for blacks in the civil rights movement—The Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Robinson’s idea was to boycott the buses for one day, but the action was so successful, it continued. The boycott began December 5, 1955 and ended on December 20, 1956.
Historians have given Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. credit for the successful boycott, but it was black women who came up with the idea and organized it. The story of the boycott is told in the book “The Thunder of Angels: The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the People Who Broke the Back of Jim Crow”