JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Sixty years after a black Chicago teenager was killed for whistling at a white woman in Mississippi, relatives and civil rights activists are holding church services and movie screenings to remember Emmett Till.

They’re also trying to continue the legacy of his late mother, Mamie Till Mobley, who worked with young people and encouraged them to challenge injustice in their everyday lives. It’s a message that Deborah Watts, a distant cousin of Till’s, sees as relevant amid the killings in recent years of young black men such as Trayvon Martin in Florida and Tamir Rice in Ohio.

Watts, of Minneapolis, was a toddler when Till was killed. She said that as she grew up, she spoke often with Mobley about Till.

“It was her motivation to turn his death into something positive,” Watts said Thursday in Jackson.

The 14-year-old Till was visiting relatives in the cotton country of the Mississippi Delta on Aug. 24, 1955, when witnesses said he violated the Jim Crow social code by whistling at Carolyn Bryant, a white woman working behind the counter of a store in the tiny town of Money.

On Aug. 28, he was kidnapped from his uncle’s home a few miles away. On Aug. 31, his body was recovered from the Tallahatchie River, with a bullet hole in his head and severe cuts on his face. Barbed wire was wrapped around his neck and he was weighted down with a cotton gin fan.

Till’s mother insisted on an open-casket funeral in Chicago, and Jet magazine published photos of his corpse. The brutality sparked outrage that galvanized the civil rights movement.

In September 1955, an all-white, all-male jury in Sumner, Mississippi, acquitted the two white men charged in the slaying — J.W. Milam and his half brother, Roy Bryant, the husband of Carolyn Bryant.

On Friday in Chicago, a gathering is scheduled at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, where Till’s funeral was held. Organizers say that will be followed by a motorcade to Burr Oak Cemetery, where both Till and his mother are buried. A wreath will be laid at the gravesite of Mobley, who died in 2003.

Among those scheduled to participate in a Till memorial dinner Friday in Chicago are Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin; and Michael Brown Sr., the father of Michael Brown Jr., whose slaying last year led to protests of police action in Ferguson, Missouri.

Movie screenings and other memorial events will be held Thursday through Sunday in Mississippi.

In 2007, a ceremony was held outside the Tallahatchie County Courthouse in Sumner, and a local committee apologized to Till’s extended family. The courthouse itself re-opened earlier this year after being restored to look as it did during the trial of Milam and Bryant. The small Emmett Till Interpretive Center opened across the street from the courthouse, and it has attracted school and church groups from across the country.

The center’s director, Patrick Weems, said Thursday that teenagers, in particular, relate to Till as they listen to his story.

“We get to understand that race and racism are not something unique to the Mississippi Delta,” Weems said. “It’s an issue that faces the entire nation.”

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13 thoughts on “60 Years After His Horrific Murder, Emmitt Till Is Remembered And Celebrated

  1. How evil! But it was okay for white men to rape black women and girls during slavery; and impregnate them only to have their children work as Slaves. My mother told me about Emmit Til, and I read and saw the horrific pictures in the Jet Magazine for myself. And white America have the audacity to call out cultures Terrorists! Hyprocrites America!

  2. I was a little boy of only 5 and it was my first time seeing Jet Magazine. Emmett Till was in a casket on the cover and I thought to myself-there are some mean people in the world. This is the TRUTH.

  3. The whites in America want to gloss over their hateful past. Isn’t it strange that they will show the evils of the Holocaust but refuse to admit to the horrors of American History.

  4. Timekeeeper on said:

    Out of all the horrific racial murders of the 60’s ( and perhaps even before & after) this was one of the worst. Probably because this was just a teenage kind who’s Mom allowed him to go south on a summer vacation, a decision she regretted for the rest of her life. 1) A young teenager with all the enthusiasm of life 2) A racist white woman ( please remember it isn’t just white men who are racist) this woman was diabolical, and the absolute cruelty of what they did to this kid will, never, ever be forgotten. ^0 years or 600 his awful pain he must have felt before dying in the hands of those monsters, the courage of his mother, refusing to close the casket in order for the world to see what truly lies in the belly of white hate and racism.
    This incident had as much to do with raising the actions of the civil rights movement as any other action that took place. Emmett Till’s picture in Jet magazine, for those who remember it were completely aghast at what they saw and sometimes still see in their minds whenever they think of that young man. His image still lives in the hearts and minds of those who saw it first hand. So yes, he will always be remembered and celebrated and he should. His youthful face in contrast only sends a chill down your spine when you imagine the horror he must have gone thru. I once got in trouble for having a picture of Emmett Till on my desk at work, which goes to show how hateful Amerika sill is, and how much certain people hate to be reminded of the cruelty of their deeds. And to some extent still lives in the deep caverns of their heartless souls.
    As for Emmett he lives safely hidden in the pavilion and tabernacle of God ( Psalm 27:8)

    • …Timekeeper, my sentiments exactly…I couldn’t have said it better…It is very difficult to “fathom” the cruelty and brutality that humans can afflict upon one another let alone a “child”…

      • And NOW in 2015 let us not forget the 9 who were murdered in a church studying the bible. So what did we overcome?

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