A memorial marking the spot where then 14-year-old Emmett Till’s body was found floating along Mississippi’s Tallahatchie River has been vandalized yet again — this time with a barrage of bullet holes. Meanwhile, a similar sign marking the home of Till’s murderer is embellished with flowers.
On Aug. 28, 1955, Till was abducted, brutally beaten and shot execution-style by J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant after the teen reportedly whistled at Bryant’s wife, a white woman. The duo was acquitted for Till’s murder soon after, expressing little to no remorse for the brutal crime they’d committed. Milam confessed to the murder just two years later.
“I didn’t intend to kill the n-gger when we went and got him – just whip him and chase him back up yonder,” he told Look magazine in 1957. “But what the hell! He showed me the white gal’s picture! Bragged o’ what he’d done to her! I counted pictures o’ three white gals in his pocketbook before I burned it. What else could I do? No use lettin’ him get no bigger!”
According to Slate, the Emmett Till Memorial Commission put up eight signs commemorating the teen’s death as a way to boost tourism and raise funds for a museum dedicated to Till’s memory in 2007. A tourist who recently visited the memorial marking the place where Till’s body was found posted a photo of the plaque to his Facebook page, showing the sign blasted with bullet holes.
Unfortunately, several of the signs have been repeatedly vandalized, shot or stolen since they were installed nearly 10 years ago. For instance, Slate reports that one of the signs placed on U.S. Highway 49 was stolen in 2007 — the same year it was put up. Another one in Tallahatchie County was defaced the following year. The original plaque marking where the teen’s body was discovered was also ripped down by vandals.
“We’re not going to tolerate them tearing down anything that’s marking Emmett Till’s murder,” Board of Supervisors President Jerome G. Little told the publication. “I want to send a message: Every time they take it down, we’re going to put it back up.”
The marker was eventually replaced. However, it was riddled with bullet holes by 2013. That same maker still stands at the historic site today.
In contrast, a sign marking the residence of Milam at the time of the brutal murder hasn’t suffered nearly as much damage as the one dedicated to Till. In fact, the murderer’s plaque has since been adorned with flowers.
According to Raw Story, community members planted flowers around the sign commemorating Milam, who died of spine cancer in 1980. After confessing to his crime, the Mississippi man became an outcast and made a living as an itinerant farmer.