October 2019 Press Release:
Emmett Till Memorial Commission Rededicates Historical Marker of Emmett Till Murder
The Emmett Till Memorial Commission of Tallahatchie County would like to invite the public to join them for events on October 17th, 18th, and 19th surrounding the rededication of the Emmett Till Historical Marker, ending with a ceremony and reception on Saturday, October 19th rededicating the marker at the river site. We will announce the launch of the Emmett Till Memory Project a new smartphone app and website that tells the story of Emmett Till at key historic sites (https://tillapp.emmett-till.org/). These events will recognize the legacy of the murder of Emmett Till and replace the previous sign that was vandalized, riddled with 20 bullet holes.
In 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was visiting family in Leflore County when he was abducted from his family members’ home, tortured, and brutally murdered by two white men. Three days later, his body was found in the Tallahatchie River. The murder of Emmett Till has been widely regarded as one of the key events leading up to the Civil Rights Movement. In 2007, the Emmett Till Memorial Commission first posted a commemorative sign at the river site where Emmett Till’s body was found. Since then, Till signs have been vandalized with bullet holes, spray paint and acid. The sign has been previously replaced twice.
“We understand that racial reconciliation begins by telling the truth. Our historical marker’s allow a first step towards that truth telling process. Sadly, there are still those who want to deny the events of 1955. We cannot change our past but we have a responsibility to tell our stories together so we can move forward together with a shared future.” says Patrick Weems, Director of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center.
Community organizations and the University of Mississippi have collaborated to host a series of events October 17-19 leading up to the rededication. These events are free and open to the public. On Thursday, October 17, the University of Mississippi will screen The Murder of Emmett Till at 6pm in the Student Union Suite 4 (218 Student Union Drive). On Friday, October 18, The University of Mississippi will host "Emmett Till: A Discussion on Race, Memory, and Responsibility" 4:00-5:30 PM in Nutt Auditorium (542 University Ave #500). The event will include short film screenings, a community panel, and a panel of undergraduate and graduate students. The community panel will feature Airickca Gordon-Taylor, cousin of Emmett Till and Executive Director of the Mamie Till Mobley Foundation; Jessie Jaynes-Diming, board member of the Emmett Till Memorial Commission; Dave Tell, author of Remembering Emmett Till; and Dr. Shennette Garrett-Scott, Associate Professor of History and African American Studies. The event is co-sponsored by the Emmett Till Legacy Alliance, the Center for Inclusion and Cross-Cultural Engagement and the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. If someone requires special assistance relating to a disability, they can contact Afton Thomas at email@example.com or 662-915-3363.
On October 19, the rededication will begin at the Tallahatchie County Courthouse in Sumner, MS at 11:00 a.m. and then will caravan to the river site marker along the banks of the Tallahatchie River for a ceremony at 11:45 AM. We will join with members of the Till family at the river and community leaders. A reception will follow at the Sumner Grille at 1:00 PM. The rededication is co-sponsored by the Mississippi Center for Justice.
More information on the Emmett Till Memory Project
The University of Mississippi has also organized a day trip to Tallahatchie County to attend the rededication on October 19th. Interested students should visit https://olemiss.campuslabs.com/engage/event/5003516 and register before October 17.
For more information about the rededication, please visit the Facebook event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/778105115975304/.
Official statement July 25, 2019
Over ten years ago, the Emmett Till Memorial Commission began putting up signs to commemorate the murder of Emmett Till. This was the first effort of its kind in Mississippi. Local citizens raised private funds to begin our own truth telling process after issuing an official apology to the Till family for our community’s role in the tragedy and injustice.
Our aim is to use the history of the murder to spark conversations about the corrosive effects of racism, past and present. Although the perpetrators of Till’s murder have never faced justice, the commission is using Till’s story to pursue racial reconciliation in the twenty-first century. While retributive justice may be elusive, restorative justice is still possible.
The efforts of the Commission have been severely hampered by vandalism. Our signs and ones like them have been stolen, thrown in the river, replaced, shot, replaced again, shot again, defaced with acid and have had KKK spray painted on them. The vandalism has been targeted and it has been persistent. Occasionally, the national news has picked up the story. More often, these acts have gone unnoticed and been the responsibility of our community to maintain.
We ask that you join us in our effort and consider helping the Commission continue the work of seeking racial justice in one of the poorest counties in the country.
The Commission is pursuing five current initiatives:
First, the Commission is developing Graball Landing, the site on the Tallahatchie River where Till’s body was pulled from the water. It is also the site of the most egregious vandalism and, for this reason, a powerful site at which to teach reconciliation. We have recently entered into a contract with a local land owner to establish permanent access to the site. Working with different stakeholders, we will create a forum for development of the site and begin work to create a site of conscience. This site will provide public access and ensure safety moving forward by including a gate and security cameras.
Second, the Commission is installing a fourth sign at Graball Landing—a bullet proof sign. Unlike the first three signs, this sign calls attention to the vandalism itself. We believe it is important to keep a sign at this historic site, but we don’t want to hide the legacy of racism by constantly replacing broken signs. The commission hopes this sign will endure, and that it will continue to spark conversations about Till, history, and racial justice.
Third, the Commission is developing a website and mobile application to take users to the most vandalized and most important sites in Till’s story. Created in partnership with the Till family and a range of scholars, the Emmett Till Memory Project (website and app) will be live in the fall of 2019. Although we have secured funding to build the project, we need increased support to maintain it and expand the range of stories it tells.
Fourth, the Commission is conducting a capital campaign. As a nonprofit in a region defined by poverty, the Commission depends on contributions from across the country. Please consider taking a look at our campaign and making a monthly donation below.
Fifth, we are currently in the process to become a National Park. Thanks to efforts by Senator Thad Cochran and the Mississippi Delegation, a bill was passed to study Mississippi Civil Rights Sites. This has been our highest hope since our organization was founded. In 1955 the federal government refused to get involved in the Till case. We believe it is now the responsibility of Congress and the President to ensure this story is told for generations to come. Please sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of the page to find out ways you can reach out to Congress to ensure that a Mamie and Emmett Till National Park is created in the coming years.
Continue to our Donate page to donate funds in support of these initiatives.