Last year marked the 60th anniversary of the brutal murder of Emmett Till. The 14-year-old had been visiting his great-uncle in Money, Mississippi, from Chicago when he was killed on Aug. 28, 1955. Three days later his body was discovered with a cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire, his left eye and most of his teeth missing, his nose crushed, and a bullet hole in his right temple. The murderers, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, were set free by an all-white jury in nearby Sumner and confessed to the crime a year later in Look magazine. They did it, they said, because Till had whistled at Bryant’s wife, who was white (what occurred during that incident is still disputed).
In 2007, the Emmett Till Memorial Commission put up eight signs commemorating Till’s death as a way to spark tourism and raise money for a museum dedicated to Till’s memory and to renovate the courthouse in Sumner.
As the Trace noted, a Facebook user recently visited the memorial that marked the place where Till’s body was found. Here is what it looks like now:
And here is a marker at Milam’s house:
The signs for Till have been vandalized basically ever since they were put up. In 2007, the year the signs went up, one on U.S. Highway 49 was stolen. Another in Tallahatchie County was damaged in 2008. That same year, the original sign at the site where Till’s body was discovered was also reportedly ripped down by vandals.
At the time, Board of Supervisors President Jerome G. Little said the signs would be preserved. “We’re not going to tolerate them tearing down anything that’s marking Emmett Till’s murder,” Little said. “I want to send a message: Every time they take it down, we’re going to put it back up.”
The sign was put back up. But by 2013, here is what it looked like:
As you can tell from the photo flagged by the Trace, not only has the sign not been replaced and protected, there are also more bullet holes in the sign now than there were in 2013.
The Emmett Till Interpretive Center opened and the courthouse was renovated last year thanks to the work of the Emmett Till Memorial Commission. You can visit the center in Sumner.