Every time I hear the story or think about the story of Emmett Till, it breaks my heart and pains my soul.
And now almost 63 years later the federal government has quietly revived its investigation into the murder ofEmmett Till, the 14-year-old African-American boy whose abduction and killing remain among the starkest and most searing examples of racial violence in the history of the South.
Till was born and raised in 1955 in Chicago, Illinois, and while visiting relatives in Mississippi, Till, then 14, was lynched and brutally murdered because he had allegedly whistled at a white woman.
Somehow, even after Carolyn Bryant Donham (the alleged victim of Till’s vicious “whistling”), recanted much of her original story, and the men who killed Tilladmitted they did it once they were acquitted for the crime — describing Till as a confident young man who told them, even as they beat him, “I’m as good as you are”
The Justice Department has renewed inquiry into this case, which it described in a report submitted to Congress in late March, was “based upon the discovery of new information.” It is not clear, though, whether the government will be able to bring charges against anyone: Most episodes investigated in recent years as part of a federal effort to re-examine racially motivated murders have not led to prosecutions, or even referrals to state authorities.
The Justice Department declined to comment on Thursday, but it appeared that the government had chosen to devote new attention to the case after a central witness, Carolyn Bryant Donham,recanted parts of her account of what transpired in August 1955. Two men who confessed to killing Emmett, only after they had been acquitted by an all-white jury in Mississippi, are now dead.
Yet the Till case, which staggered the nation after the boy’s open-coffin funeral and the publication of photographs of his mutilated body, has never faded away, especially in a region stillgrappling with the horrors of its past. Even in recent years, historical markers about the case have beenvandalized.
For more than six decades, Emmett’s death has stood as a symbol of Southern racism. The boy was visiting family in Money, Miss., deep in the Mississippi Delta, from Chicago when he went to a store owned by Ms. Donham and her then husband, who was one of the men who ultimately confessed to Emmett’s murder. Emmett was kidnapped and killed days later, he had been beaten, shot and had a barbed wire wrapped around his neck tethered to a cotton gin fan and then tossed into the Tallahatchie River.
This case was never concluded which sends one clear message: 63 years and the American justice system continues to prove it doesn’t care for innocent black lives.
A U.S. jury on Tuesday condemned white supremacist Dylan Roof to death for the hate-fueled killings of nine black parishioners at a Bible study meeting in a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015.
The same jury last month found Roof, 22, guilty of 33 federal charges, including hate crimes resulting in death, for the shootings at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Jurors deliberated for less than three hours. Roof stared straight ahead as the judge read through the jury’s verdict findings before announcing his death sentence.
Roof, who represented himself for the penalty phase, was unrepentant during his closing argument earlier in the day. He told jurors he still felt the massacre was something he had to do and did not ask that his life be spared.
Roof’s hate was apparent as he was unremorseful during testimony of the entire trial.
Roof still faces a trial on murder charges in state court, where prosecutors also are seeking the death penalty.
A survivor of last year’s massacre of nine African American churchgoers in Charleston, SC recalled in federal court today how gunman, Dylann Roof, spared her life, telling her he needed her “to tell the story.”
Polly Sheppard (pictured above left), told a jury, she dove under a table as shots rang out at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2015 at the end of a Bible study session.
When Sheppard opened her eyes, Roof’s boots were in her line of sight, she told the jury who’s hearing the federal death penalty case in South Carolina, what Roof said to her.
“Did I shoot you yet?” Roof asked, according to Sheppard.
“No,” she replied.
“I’m not going to. I need you to tell the story,” Roof said.
Roof was given a Bible and pamphlet when he entered the church and joined the group, Sheppard recalled.
At the end of the session about 50 minutes later, the group stood to pray, closing their eyes.
That was when gunshots rang out.
Sheppard said she mistook them for the sparking of old electrical wiring until her friend Felicia Sanders started screaming.
“Oh, he’s shooting everybody, Miss Polly,” Sheppard recalled Sanders saying.
Sheppard told the court how Roof executed 26-year-old Tywanza Sanders, Felicia Sanders’s son.
“Why are you doing this? We mean you no harm,” said a wounded Tywanza Sanders, who propped himself up on his elbows to address the attacker before being shot dead.
“I have to. I have to. You’re raping our women and taking over the nation,” Roof said, according to Sheppard’s account.
Closing arguments are set for tomorrow, with the jury expected to begin deliberations. Should he be found guilty, Roof has elected to represent himself during the sentencing phase of the trial. Either way, he faces the death penalty.
Hopewell Baptist church in Greenville, Mississippi was set on fire on Tuesday night and spray painted with the words “Vote Trump” on the side of it. No one was in the church at the time of the fire, and no one was injured.
Mayor of Mississippi Errick Simmons, said in an interview “This fire was “a direct assault on people’s right to free worship,” he said, and later added during a press conference, “I see this as an attack on the black church and the black community.”
This is a tense time in American politics. The burning of Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church is a sign of how bad things have gotten, and what may be still to come. “What we have to do is come together,” Simmons said. “The only thing that conquers hate is love.”
Black churches have long been burned in acts of intimidation and hatred; in the Jim Crow South, members of hate groups would leave flaming crosses on churchyard lawns. The bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, came at a time of extreme racial division in the United States; it was that crime, which killed four young black girls, that led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.