The lynching of the wrongly-accused 14-year-old boy sparked the civil rights movement

By Chris Harris
August 28, 2020 02:20 PM
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Emmett Till
Emmett Till
| Credit: Getty

Today marks the 65th anniversary of the death of Emmett Till, the Black teenager whose brutal murder became a catalyst for the national civil rights movement.

The 14-year-old Chicago boy was visiting Mississippi when he was kidnapped before being beaten, mutilated and lynched by two White men in 1955, after a woman falsely accused him of lewd behavior.

The woman accused Till of whistling at her and attempting to grab her hand and waist. But in 2017, she recanted her story.

Months after Till's death, the killers, Roy Bryant and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, were acquitted by an all-white jury.

The jury had deliberated for only an hour.

In January 1956, Bryant and Milam confessed to their guilt in Till’s death in a Look magazine article. (Both men have since died.)

Carolyn Bryant Donham, Till's accuser, testified at the trial and while her allegations were entered into the record and shared with reporters by her attorneys, they were never heard by the jury.

The jury's ruling, as well as leaked photographs of Till's body, sparked outrage nationwide.

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Earlier this year, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill named after Till which will make lynching a federal hate crime.

The legislation has stalled in the Senate.

Till's death, and his mother's subsequent fight for justice, will serve as the basis of a forthcoming film, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The movie will be produced by Barbra Broccoli and Whoopi Goldberg and directed by Clemency director Chinonye Chukwu.