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Senate to Honor Emmett Till and His Mother with Congressional Gold Medal

The Senate has passed a bill to posthumously award Emmett Till and his mother Mamie Till-Mobley with the Congressional Gold Medal. Till’s murder and his mother’s decision to have an open-casket funeral because she “wanted the world to see what they did to my baby” played a crucial part in kickstarting the civil rights movement. 

MONEY, MS- AUGUST 29: Descendants of Emmett Till gather outside of an old service station in Money, Mississippi on August 29, 2015. (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Sens. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, and Richard Burr, a Republican representing North Carolina, initially introduced the bill to honor Till and his mother with the highest civilian honor Congress can give in September 2020, NBC News reported. They reintroduced the legislation for the 117th Congress last year.

In 1955, Till, a 14-year-old Black teen from Chicago, was kidnapped from his uncle’s rural Mississippi home, beaten, mutilated, and lynched by several white men, including Roy Bryant and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, for allegedly whistling at a white woman, Carolyn Bryant Donham, a few days earlier.

The young boy was tied with barbed wire and tossed in the Tallahatchie River. The men anchored his body with a 75-pound cotton gin fan.

Bryant and Milam were charged with murder but acquitted by an all-white jury despite eye-witness testimony given by his uncle. A year later, the two confessed to the killings in a January issue of Look magazine.

The posthumous recognition comes more than a month after the Justice Department announced that they were officially closing their investigation on the case that took place more than 60 years ago. Officials claimed they could not prove that one of the star witnesses pivotal to the case lied in her testimony.

Authorities reinitiated their investigation after historian, and college professor Timothy B. Tyson claimed in his book “The Blood of Emmett Till” that Donham told him that she lied about the teen ever touching her. 

Tyson claims that during his interview with the woman in his office in 2008 she handed him a transcript of her sworn 1955 testimony and said, ‘[t]hat part’s not true,’ indicating that she lied. However, Tyson was unable to produce evidence supporting his claim. Also, Donham, now in her 80s, maintained her initial accusation from 60 years ago and also denied recanting her story to Tyson. 

ABC’s ‘Women of the Movement’ also revisited Till’s murder. The limited series focuses on his mother, played by Tony Award winner Adrienne Warren, and her journey to find justice for her son, played by Cedric Joe, by enlisting reporters and working with the NAACP.

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