to Emmett Till's Family
We the citizens of Tallahatchie County believe that racial reconciliation begins with telling the truth. We call on the state of Mississippi, all of its citizens in every county, to begin an honest investigation into our history. While it will be painful, it is necessary to nurture reconciliation and to ensure justice for all. By recognizing the potential for division and violence in our own towns, we pledge to each other, black and white, to move forward together in healing the wounds of the past and in ensuring equal justice for all of our citizens.
Over fifty-two years ago, on August 28, 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was kidnapped in the middle of the night from his uncle’s home near Money, Mississippi, by at least two men, one from Leflore County and one from Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. Till, a black youth from Chicago visiting family in Mississippi, was kidnapped and murdered, and his body thrown into the Tallahatchie River. He had been accused of whistling at a white woman in Money. His badly beaten body was found days later in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi.
The Grand Jury meeting in Sumner, Mississippi, indicted Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam for the crime of murder. These two men were then tried on this charge and were acquitted by an all-white, all-male jury after a deliberation of just over an hour. Within four months of their acquittal, the two men confessed to the murder.
Before the trial began, Till’s mother had sought assistance from federal officials, under the terms of the so-called Lindbergh Law which made kidnapping a federal crime but received no aid. Only a renewed request in December 2002 from Till’s mother, supported by Mississippi District Attorney Joyce Chiles and the Emmett Till Justice Campaign, yielded a new investigation.
We the citizens of Tallahatchie County recognize that the Emmett Till case was a terrible miscarriage of justice. We state candidly and with deep regret the failure to effectively pursue justice. We wish to say to the family of Emmett Till that we are profoundly sorry for what was done in this community to your loved one.
We the citizens of Tallahatchie County acknowledge the horrific nature of this crime. Its legacy has haunted our community. We need to understand the system that encouraged these events and others like them to occur so that we can ensure that it never happens again. Working together, we have the power now to fulfill the promise of liberty and justice for all.
Ten years ago, the community of Sumner Mississippi issued an apology from the steps of the courthouse in which Emmett Till's Murderers were acquitted. Now, after a decade of work to share, understand, and learn from Emmett's story, the community invites you to join in a call to action.
Taking ownership of the legacies of racial injustice is an important first step on the path to racial healing. Read the text of the apology, then add your name to the list of those who have taken that first step.