Emmett Till marker: Students plaster hope on vandalized site
Tyler Williams | 7/6/2017, 11:19 a.m.
A historic marker in Money, Miss., dedicated to informing the public about the teenaged Emmett Till’s kidnapping, assault and murder in 1955 was vandalized on June 26, according to The Root. Till was a 14-year-old boy who was kidnapped, brutally beaten and lynched for supposedly whistling at a 21-year-old white woman, Carolyn Bryant, in 1955. She is now 83 years old. It was recently reported that her claim was not true.
According to a January 2017 CBS report, Bryant broke her long public silence, confessing to historian Timothy Tyson, who wrote about the death of Till in “The Blood of Emmett Till,” that her allegations against Till were false. Bryant’s husband, Roy, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, were acquitted by an all-white jury in the lynching. The two later confessed to a journalist after being paid for their story that they committed the crime.
According to NBC News, Allan Hammons, whose public relations firm made the marker, said Monday that someone scratched the marker with a blunt tool in May. During the past week, a tour group discovered vinyl panels had been peeled off the back of the metal marker. The panels contained photos and words about Till.
The Root journalist Monique Judge expressed her view, stating, “Just goes to show you that white people don’t want to be reminded of the racism that still exists in our country, all while continuing to carry it out in the most disrespectful ways possible. And let me save you some keystrokes in the comments: We know not all white people but I still said what I said.”
Students from Cultural Leadership: Class 12, a St. Louis-based nonprofit that teaches young adults how to become civil rights leaders, were present at the site after the sign was vandalized and were disheartened by the destruction.
Dani Gottlieb, a 16-year-old from Cultural Leadership, told Huffington Post that she was expecting to see “flowers growing in Emmett Till’s honor” at the landmark, “not a torn-down marker.” The students decided to plaster their own notes providing information about Till’s death on the historical marker.
Cultural Leadership Executive Director Holly Ingraham told the Amsterdam News that she was proud of Class 12.
Ingraham shared, “Saturday, June 24, students met with investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell of the Clarion Ledger. Mr. Mitchell’s work has helped put four Klansmen behind bars for cold case civil rights crimes committed in the 1960s. Sunday, June 25, students traveled to visit Bryant’s Grocery store in Money, Miss. The site where Emmett Till was accused of whistling at a white woman, and then he was later violently killed. The students discovered that the historical marker remembering Emmett Till had been vandalized and the history of the case erased. Students decided to speak out, as well as take action. They re-wrote the erased history, sharing information they had learned, as well as artwork and reflection on the importance of remembering Emmett Till. They spoke out by tweeting a photo of the vandalized marker, and their repair, to the Mississippi Department of Transportation, who is charged with maintaining the sign. Monday, June 26, students received requests from Jerry Mitchell for quotes regarding their work at the historic marker site. Their tweet had become trending news, as Jerry Mitchell and other news outlets began reporting that the marker had been vandalized.”
She continued, “Speaking out, and taking action, are two of the many leadership and social justice advocacy skills students learn in Cultural Leadership. Proud of Class 12!”
One student wrote, “You can destroy this marker, but you cannot destroy history. His death sparked a movement.” Another student, Eden Spiva, Cultural Leadership Class 12, explained, “I chose to write, ‘It’s not who killed him. It’s what killed him,’ because everyone knows the two men killed him and how they got away with murder. It’s a terrible story, but the real focus is on the hatred that killed Emmett Till and other victims.”