Last week, Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., joined Republican senators and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) to plant a tree on the grounds of the Capitol in honor of Emmett Till.
Lewis and GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran of Mississippi, joined Holder to honor Till, a 14-year-old African-American boy who was brutally killed in Mississippi in 1955 after allegedly whistling at a white woman.
Till’s death was a major catalyst for launching the Civil Rights Movement and is regarded as one of the most horrific murders in American history. His murder still resonates with the public to this day.
“Just months after Emmett Till was laid to rest, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus, saying she had thought of this young man the moment she was challenged,” said Holder. “So although Emmett Till died senselessly—and far too soon— it can never be said that he died in vain. His tragic murder galvanized millions to action.”
Till’s name was printed on signs carried by protesters marching in protest of the recent deaths of two Black teenagers. Protesters drew comparisons between Till’s murder and the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012 and Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9.
“We commemorate this legacy by planting a tree in his honor—a tree that will become his living memorial here at the heart of our republic, in the shadow of the United States Capitol,” Holder added.
Holder said the memorial will represent Till’s memory for generations to come. “It will ensure that Emmett Till’s story, his example and his too-short life will be preserved forever—on these grounds now made hallow, but also in the memories of all who knew him, in the work of those who carry on his fight,” he said. “In remembering that young man in the way we do today, we ennoble our nation and make our union more perfect.”