Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Illinois Congressman calls for reopening of Emmett Till investigation

(From Congressman Bobby Rush, D-Illinois)

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) today asked the U.S. Justice Department to reopen the Emmett Till murder case in light of new information which suggests a witness may have provided false testimony to federal authorities. The trial and subsequent acquittal of the perpetrators by an all-white jury in 1955, led to national outrage and led to Rosa Parks’ defiant stance against racial injustice in December of the same year sparking the Civil Rights Movement. The youth was accused of “whistling at a white woman.”

On August 28, 1955, Till was kidnapped, tortured, shot, mutilated and weighted down with a cotton gin fan before being tossed in the Tallahatchie River in Money, Mississippi. The elementary school-aged youth had been on summer break visiting relatives when he was murdered.

Now, an author claims the still-living Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman at the center of the crime, admitted in 2007 that she made up the story about the boy’s actions, raising questions about whether the outcome would have been the same had she not fabricated parts or all of her sworn testimony. In his correspondence to the Attorney General, the Congressman wrote:

“As you may know, I have long expressed an interest in the circumstances surrounding the murder of Emmett Till. My interest is not only personal but also because Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till, was a longtime resident of my district which also serves as Emmett’s final resting place.

“…I understand that in 2007, the Department of Justice determined that this case did not warrant federal prosecution due to the statute of limitations on any potential federal crimes. Recent developments, however, lead me to believe that a reevaluation of that decision is warranted. History tells us that in 1955, despite compelling evidence to the contrary, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were acquitted by an all-white jury of Emmett’s murder. This acquittal was largely based on testimony given by Bryant’s wife, Carolyn, who had accused Emmett of whistling at, grabbing, and threatening her. What history does not tell us — and what has only recently come to light — is evidence that, in 2007, Carolyn Bryant Donham ‘confessed that she had fabricated the most sensational part of her testimony.’ In fact, when speaking of her earlier allegations that Emmett ‘had made verbal and physical advances on her,’ she is specifically quoted as saying ‘That part’s not true.’

“This revelation, I believe, merits a reevaluation of the Justice Department’s 2007 decision. At minimum, it is possible that false statements were made during the FBI’s investigation leading up to this report. Additionally, at a basic human level and in the interest of justice and historical integrity, society cannot allow such an egregious lie to go unpunished; especially when this lie led to the gruesome and horrific murder of a child. As Carolyn Bryant Donham herself said, ‘Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him.’

“For these reasons, I strongly encourage you to reevaluate the potential for federal prosecution of any applicable crimes in this case. … As Mamie is reported to have said in 2015, ‘I hope he didn’t die in vain.’ I wholeheartedly share this sentiment and I thank you for your attention to this matter.”

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Congressman calls for reopening of Emmett Till investigation

A new book revealing that Carolyn Bryant Donham lied when she testified that 14-year-old Emmett Till made moves on her has sparked cries for a reopening of the investigation into Till's 1955 lynching death.

Till was brutally murdered by Donham's husband at the time, Roy Bryant and his brother-in-law J. W. Milam. The two were found not guilty by a Tallahatchee County, Mississippi jury but later sold the story of how they murdered Till to Look magazine for $4,000.

Donham has refused interviews and has not talked about Emmett Till since the trial until she consented to a 2007 interview with author Timothy Tyson for his book, The Blood of Emmett Till, which was published earlier this month.

Among those calling for the investigation to be reopened is Congressman Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi.

The following message was posted on his Facebook page Friday:

Today, I wrote to the U.S Department of Justice. Asking for a formal investigation in regards to Carolyn Bryant Donham's false testimony during the trial of Emmett Louise Till's murderers. Please see my letter below.

Black History Month spotlight on Kansas City Monarchs' Buck O'Neil

Monday, October 24, 2016

Sign marking where Emmett Till was murdered riddled with bullet holes

A sign marking the spot where 14-year-old Emmett Till was brutally murdered, one of the seminal events that led to the Civil Rights movement, has been riddled with bullets.

Image may contain: outdoorNew York University film student Kevin Wilson made the discovery while working on a short movie about the Till murder and posted it on his Facebook page where it has been shared more than 13,000 times.

From today's Washington Post:

The sign that marks the spot where Till’s body was discovered has been stolen and vandalized on several occasions since it first went up in 2008, according to the Clarion-Ledger. The Emmett Till Memorial Commission installed eight markers like it around the county, and the sign near the river has seen the most damage.

“These are easy targets, a low-risk outlet for racism,” Dave Tell, an associate professor at the University of Kansas who is part of the Emmett Till Memory Project, told the Clarion-Ledger. Some people, he said, see “civil rights monuments as a form of reverse discrimination, a threat to their own well-being.”

Monday, December 15, 2014

Congressman Cleaver meets with Emmett Till family

(From Missouri Fifth District Congressman Emanuel Cleaver)

I was just a small boy growing up in Texas, when I heard about the murder of another boy in Mississippi. His name was Emmett Till, he was 14-years old, and I remember how frightened I was at the time because I didn't understand what had happened. My comprehension, though, grew a hundred fold when I saw a picture of his battered and burned body. It was published in the pages of Jet magazine -- and I was changed forever.

Now, I hope to help bring attention to cases like that of Emmett Till, and so many others. To that end, this week I met with family members of Emmett, Frank Morris and the five fishermen killed in Pensacola, Florida. Congressman Bennie Thompson, from Mississippi, organized the meeting, and members of the Cold Case Justice Initiative from Syracuse University School of Law were also there. The goal is to bring awareness to the Till case, and the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Act of 2007, and to discuss ways member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and others, can work with the Department of Justice on these cases.

The Cold Case Justice Initiative has identified more than 300 unsolved civil rights cases and suspicious killings. The focus now is to have tools already in place, like the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Act, actively enforced and possibly extended.

As a young child, scared and confused by what happened to a boy in Mississippi who I'd never met, not in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be able to lend assistance to his and other families, as well as to investigations. As I grew older following the years of Emmett's death, my understanding grew deeper, along with my resolve to fight these horrific crimes, and the injustices they represent for all of us. I am proud to do just that.

(Photo- Congressman Cleaver meets with family members of Emmett Till, and others, to bring awareness to unsolved civil rights cases.)