For more than 50 years after the murder of Emmett Till, no historical markers in the Mississippi Delta told the story of the 14-year-old African-American boy who was dragged from his bed in the night, lynched and then dumped in the Tallahatchie River.
That changed in 2007. Eight signs were erected in northwest Mississippi, including at the spot on the river where fishermen in 1955 discovered Emmett’s mutilated corpse tethered to a cotton-gin fan.
But a year later, vandals tore down the sign on the riverbed. It was replaced. But then bullets were fired into that marker — more than 100 rounds over several years. A new sign was installed in June. Thirty-five days later, on July 26, it was shot up again.
.. There was a highway marker with his name on it, but that too was vandalized when the letters KKK were spray-painted across it. It was later completely covered in black paint.
.. Mr. Weems said that in the decades after Emmett’s death, people in the Mississippi Delta region wanted to forget about the crime and act as if it never had happened. While that sentiment holds true with some people there, he said, most people in the area have voiced support for preserving Emmett’s story in the historical markers... “My sense is that it only takes one person to do this,” Mr. Weems said.
U.S. Reopens Probe Into 1955 Killing of Emmett Till
following the publication last year of “The Blood of Emmett Till,” a book that says a key figure in the case acknowledged lying about events preceding the slaying of the 14-year-old youth from Chicago.
The book, by Timothy B. Tyson, quotes a white woman, Carolyn Donham, as acknowledging during a 2008 interview that she wasn’t truthful when she testified that Emmett grabbed her, whistled and made sexual advances at a store in 1955.
Two white men—Ms. Donham’s then-husband Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam —were charged with murder but acquitted in the slaying of Emmett, who had been staying with relatives in northern Mississippi at the time. The men later confessed to the crime in a magazine interview but weren’t retried. Both are now dead... Images of his mutilated body in the casket gave witness to the depth of racial hatred in the Deep South and helped build momentum for subsequent civil rights campaigns.
.. Ms. Donham, then known as Carolyn Bryant and 21 years old at the time, testified in 1955 as a prospective defense witness in the trial of Messrs. Bryant and Milam. With jurors out of the courtroom, she said a “nigger man” she didn’t know took her by the arm.
“Just what did he say when he grabbed your hand?” defense attorney Sidney Carlton asked, according to a trial transcript released by the FBI a decade ago.
“He said, ‘How about a date, baby?’” she testified. Ms. Bryant said she pulled away, and moments later the young man “caught me at the cash register,” grasping her around the waist with both hands and pulling her toward him.
“He said, ‘What’s the matter baby, can’t you take it?’” she testified. Ms. Bryant also said he told her, “You don’t need to be afraid of me,” claiming that he used an obscenity and mentioned something he had done “with white women before.”
.. In the book, Mr. Tyson wrote that Ms. Donham told him her testimony about Emmett’s accosting her wasn’t true.
“Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him,” the book quotes her as saying.