City Unveils Emmett Till Statue

Applause, tears greet tribute to 1955 Mississippi lynching victim
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 22, 2022 3:00 PM CDT
Emmett Till Takes His Place in Greenwood
Audience members reach forward to touch and photograph the Emmett Till Memorial Statue after its unveiling Friday in Greenwood, Miss.   (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Hundreds of people applauded—and some wiped away tears—as a Mississippi community unveiled a larger-than-life statue of Emmett Till on Friday, not far from where white men kidnapped and killed the Black teenager over accusations he had flirted with a white woman in a country store. "Change has come, and it will continue to happen," Madison Harper, a senior at Leflore County High School, told a racially diverse audience at the statue's dedication, the AP reports. "Decades ago, our parents and grandparents could not envision that a moment like today would transpire."

The 1955 lynching became a catalyst for the civil rights movement. Till's mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, insisted on an open-casket funeral in Chicago so the world could see the horrors inflicted on her 14-year-old son. Jet magazine published photos of his mutilated body, which was pulled from the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi. The 9-foot-tall bronze statue in Greenwood's Rail Spike Park is a jaunty depiction of the living Till in slacks, dress shirt, and tie with one hand on the brim of a hat. The rhythm and blues song, "Wake Up, Everybody" played as workers pulled a tarp off the figure. Dozens of people surged forward, shooting photos and video on cellphones.

Anna-Maria Webster of Rochester, New York, had tears running down her face. "It's beautiful to be here," she said. Speaking of Till's mother Webster said: "Just to imagine the torment she went through—all over a lie." Mississippi has the highest percentage of Black residents of any state, about 38%. Democratic US Rep. Bennie Thompson, whose district encompasses the Delta, noted that Mississippi had no Black elected officials when Till was killed. He said Till's death helped spur change. "But you, know, change has a way of becoming slower and slower," said Thompson, the only Black member of Mississippi's current congressional delegation. “What we have to do in dedicating this monument to Emmett Till is recommit ourselves to the spirit of making a difference in our community."

(More Emmett Till stories.)

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