The murder of Emmett Tillu

“Till” is the new film about the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till—a crime that helped spark the civil rights movement. Reviews of the film have begun, and made us think about the October 24, 2004 “60 Minutes” report on the death of Emmett Till from our late colleague Ed Bradley. We want to share some excerpts from that award-winning story:

He was 14 years old when he was kidnapped, tortured and killed. The failure to punish anyone for the crime made headlines around the country and the world, highlighting the racial hatred of blacks and the unequal justice that pervaded the segregated South, where laws dictated where blacks could eat and Where can you sleep

But Emmett Till was not from the South; He was from Chicago, and was visiting relatives in Mississippi in August 1955 when his nightmare began.

Emmett’s 16-year-old cousin, Wheeler Parker, Jr. (now 65), traveled with him to Mississippi: “He loved pranks, he loved fun, he loved jokes,” Parker said. “You know, he was just at the center of everything. He was a naturally born leader.”

Correspondent Ed Bradley asked, “Why would this be a problem?”

“In MississippiWhy would this be a problem?” Parker smiled.

“Did someone say, ‘Look, the dos and don’ts about going to Mississippi? You do this, you don’t do that?’

“Oh yeah, it’s routine. You always prepare to go to Mississippi to survive. Because, you know, once you got to Mississippi, you had no protection under the law.”

Emmett Louis Till, 14, with his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, at home in Chicago.

Chicago Tribune / Tribune News Service via Getty Images

For Emmett Till, trouble began at the Bryants Meat Market and grocery store in Money, Mississippi. The store was owned by a white couple: Roy Bryant, and his 21-year-old wife, Carolyn, who was behind the counter that afternoon when Emmett Till and his cousins ​​came to buy some candy. As he was leaving the store, Emmett Till whistled at Caroline Bryant – and she went to get the gun.

Emmett Till’s cousin Simeon Wright, who lived in Mississippi who was 12 that day, recalled: “We ran, we jumped in the car and we got out.”

“Just because he whistled?”

“Oh yeah. It’s like if you’re a kid and you throw a rock and break a window, you don’t turn around to see what’s going to happen.”

Emmett and his cousins ​​went home that day hoping nothing would happen to what Emmett had done. But three days later, Caroline Bryant’s husband Roy and her half-brother, JW Milam, went looking for Emmett at midnight, and found him and his cousin, the Reverend Moss Wright, at the home of Emmett’s late great-uncle.

Emmett and Simeon, Rev. Wright’s sons, were sleeping together in the same room. “I woke up and I looked, I saw two men standing on the bed, one with a gun, which was JW Milam,” said Simeon Wright. “I saw Roy Bryant. And he ordered Emmett to get up and put on his clothes. And my mom was pleading with him and begging him not to take him. My dad was begging him. And my mom offered, at the time, to give him money to leave Emmett alone. And Roy Bryant was kind of hesitant. But JW Milam, he didn’t hesitate at all.”

“I would have been scared to death,” Bradley said.

“Not only was there fear, but there was a sadness in the whole house, there was a sadness, you know, like you can cut through the grief in the house. Because after they left, no one said anything, hardly.”

On August 31, 1955, three days after his abduction, Emmett’s mutilated body was found by a boy fishing the waters of the Tallahatchie River, not far from Money. His body was weighed by a 75-pound fan with a cotton gin attached to his neck with barbed wire. He was severely tortured. An eye was cut off, an ear was cut off, and it appears he was shot in the head.

The local sheriff, HC Strider, a plantation owner and ardent separatist, tried to bury the body immediately, hoping that no one in the outside world would find out what happened to Emmett Till.

Until Mami in 2003.

CBS News

But Emmett’s mother, Mamie, fought with Mississippi officials and was able to bring her son’s body back to Chicago so that she could identify him before burying him.

In a final interview given in 2003, Mamie Till said, “I looked at his teeth, because I was so proud of his teeth. His teeth were the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life, I thought. And I only Saw two. Where were the others? They had just been knocked over.”

About 50,000 people, almost all of them black, turned out for Emmett Till’s funeral. Mamie Till ordered the funeral director to place her son in an open coffin, and allowed the shocking photo of Emmett’s corpse, which was seen across the country. “I said, ‘I want the world to see this,'” she recalled. “Because when people saw what had happened to this little 14-year-old boy, they knew that not only men, but black people, were in danger, but black children as well.”

This picture of the mutilated body of 14-year-old Emmett Till shook the nation’s conscience.

CBS News

On the same day that Emmett Till was buried, Roy Bryant and JW Milam were charged with kidnapping and murder. His trial was held in the small Mississippi town of Sumter, which was billed as “a good place to raise a boy”.

The star witness was Emmett’s late great-uncle, Moss Wright, who bravely stood up in the courtroom and pointed his finger at Milam and Bryant, who had come to their home and kidnapped the child at gunpoint.

Moss Wright Testimony
Sixty-four-year-old Moss Wright, Emmett Till’s paternal uncle, stood in the packed court when asked who had come to his house on the night of August 28, 1955, and took young Till with him. Wright pointed the finger at defendants Roy Bryant and John W. Milan and replied, “They are.”

Ernest Withers/Bateman/Getty Images

Another key witness was an 18-year-old sharecropper named Willie Reid, who said that the morning after Emmett Till was kidnapped, he saw Emmett on a truck with six people: Roy Bryant, JW Milam, two other white men, and Black people working for two mills. Soon after, Reid said he saw the same truck parked in front of a barn—managed by Milam’s brother at the time—and heard the screams of a young boy whom he believed to be Emmett Till.

Bradley asked Reed, “When they found the body, did you put two and two together and think all you heard in that barn was Emmett ’til being beaten up?”

“I was sure. I was sure then,” Reid replied.

Fearing for his life after testifying against Milam and Bryant, Willie Reid was smuggled out of Mississippi. He went to Chicago, where he had a nervous breakdown and was admitted to the hospital.

Bradley said, “You’re a good guy. You had a lot of courage for an 18-year-old. I think a lot of people would have walked away from it, not saying a word.”

“No, I can’t,” Reed replied. “I couldn’t get away like that, because Emmett was 14, had probably never been to Mississippi in his life, and he came to visit his grandfather and they killed him. I mean, that’s not right. “

It took just one hour and seven minutes for the jury to return a not guilty verdict. A jury member said it wouldn’t take that long, but they stopped to take a soda pop break to make it look good. Milam and Bryant were greeted by many of their supporters, and kissed their wives in celebration.

Acquitted murder defendants Roy Bryant and JW Milam
Roy Bryant (right) smokes a cigar as his wife happily embraces him, and his half-brother, JW Milam, and his wife react, two men acquitted by an all-white jury of the murder of Emmett Till. After going. Four months later, in an interview with a reporter, the two admitted that they killed the boy.

Bateman / Getty Images

Four months after the trial, knowing that double jeopardy saved them from trying again, Roy Bryant and JW Milam confessed to a Look magazine reporter that they had indeed tortured and murdered Emmett Till. . He was paid $4,000 for his story.

Emmett Till’s family has had to live with it for almost 50 years – that his killers confessed, and nothing ever happened to them.

Simeon Wright said, “JW Milam and Roy Bryant admitted that they killed Emmett. The people of the state of Mississippi say they didn’t. We need to reconcile that statement, and we have a message to those people.” Need to send those who are committing crimes. Black people like this you can get, but you can’t get away.”

  • JW Milam died of cancer in 1980.
  • Roy Bryant died of cancer in 1994. In a 2008 interview, Caroline Bryant Donham said, “What the guy did could never justify what happened to him.”
  • Mamie Till Mobley died of heart failure in a Chicago hospital in 2003. She was 81 – the age Emmett would be today.
  • No one was ever convicted for the kidnapping, torture, and murder of Emmett Till.

To watch the trailer of “Tak” click on the video player below:

till | Official Trailer | MGM Studio By
MGM on Youtube

for more information:

  • “Tak” (Official Site), now playing in theaters

Story produced by Mary Raffalli. Editor: Emanuel Secci.

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