NEW YORK (FinalCall.com)–Mamie Till-Mobley, 81, spoke plainly during the press conference at New York University, declaring that she wants an “apology” from the state of Mississippi.
“I have done everything in my power to get the state of Mississippi to acknowledge that they did nothing to help in the Emmett Till case,” Ms. Mobley told reporters.
Ms. Mobley made her remarks to the press after the Nov. 16 premiere showing of the 90-minute documentary film, “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till,” directed by Keith A. Beauchamp, 31. Ms. Mobley confirmed what some newspaper writers had offered as speculation in news reports days before the film’s release, that Mr. Beauchamp’s film contained material useful in re-opening the 47-year old case.
At 2:00 a.m. on August 28, 1955, a group of men abducted 14-year-old Emmett Till–who was visiting from Chicago, Ill.–from the home of his great-uncle, Moses Wright, in Money, Mississippi. Three days later, his bloated and battered body floated to the surface of the Talahatchie River. Two White men, Ray Bryant and his half brother were arrested. Mr. Bryant claimed that Emmett Till had disrespected his wife Carolyn, 21, by whistling at her. After a four-day trial and an hour of deliberation, an all-White jury found them not guilty. The jury foreman said the state did not conclusively prove the identity of the body.
The jury’s verdict did not sit well with many Americans. People such as singer Bob Dylan were moved to speak out. In his 1963 song dedicated to Emmett Till, Bob Dylan wrote: “But on the jury there were men who helped the brothers commit this awful crime. And so this trial was a mockery, but nobody seemed to mind.”
“I have not allowed myself to dwell in disappointment and the need for revenge,” Ms. Mobley said, adding that she did not mean that she had ever stopped hoping that some day there would be justice for her son.
Mr. Beauchamp worked six years on the film. He said that the objective of his work was to get the people of America behind the evidence that has come forth in the documentary.
“I was ten or eleven when I found the JET magazine story about Emmett Till,” Mr. Beauchamp explained to the press. He said he asked his parents about it, and they told him the truth.
“When I began my research for the film I found witnesses that say they had never been questioned about Emmett Till’s lynching, and they want to tell their story,” Mr. Beauchamp said. He said he was told that there were five White men and four Black men involved in the kidnapping of Emmett Till, not just the two who were tried and acquitted in September 1955. Three of the White men are still alive along with two of the Black men. He also said the atmosphere in Mississippi is still dangerous when you mention the Emmett Till case. One of the Black men involved in the kidnapping talked in the movie behind a screen.
The murder of Emmett Till represents “the sins of our past,” admitted Jonathan Compretta, special assistant to Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore. “We are definitely not proud of the Emmett Till issue,” he said.
Mr. Compretta said the attorney general has not received any new evidence. “We would welcome anything that would help us solve this case, if there is evidence out there,” he added.
Concerning an apology to Ms. Mobley, he said, “I know the attorney general would like to express his sympathy to Ms. Mobley.”
Ms. Mobley’s response upon hearing what Mr. Compretta had said: “It tells me what I have believed for 47-years, that the Lord spoke to me in 1955. Hearing what the attorney general’s assistant said is like the flood gates are finally opening up, a cloud has been removed.”
Mr. Beauchamp told The Final Call that he wants to present the evidence that he has uncovered. “I am searching for the right way to go about this. I remember what happened in the Alabama case concerning the four little girls, and I remember what happened when people came forth with evidence in the 1963 murder of Medgar Evers. Initial evidence that was presented in both cases was swept under the rug,” he said.
Ms. Mobley says she wants it known that it was, in her opinion, a conspiracy to cover-up the case involving officials in Mississippi and the federal government. She told The Final Call that she had sent a telegram to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, asking that he intervene in her son’s case.
“I never received a reply from the president,” she said. But she said she received a letter from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover–who led his own notorious counterintelligence program against Blacks–explaining that the federal government had no jurisdiction in the Emmett Till case because he was not kidnapped across state lines.
“But Mr. Hoover did say that if there was evidence that any official in Mississippi interfered with witnesses in the case, that would constitute grounds for federal intervention,” Mr. Beauchamp explained.
He said there is evidence that the sheriff of Money, A.C. Strider, kept two Black men who were potential witnesses locked away in jail for six months. Sheriff Strider is dead.
The other two Black men were transported in the trunk of Medgar Evers’ car to safety in Tennessee. Charles Evers says that he was with his brother during those days. When told the name of the man still alive, he asked about a man named Leroy “Too Tight” Collins, who also was there the night of the lynching.
It was explained to Mr. Evers that Mr. Collins was still alive, but not stable mentally, according to reports. “Yeah, he has been like that for a very long time. But if those White men are still alive, and there is evidence, we need to put them away,” Mr. Evers said. He said that most folks believed that all of the Black men involved in the case were dead.
“The Emmett Till case was the beginning of the outside world understanding lynching in Mississippi,” Mr. Evers said. He said because of Ms. Mobley’s courage, Mississippi could no longer hide its dirty little secret. He agreed that Mississippi “definitely” owes Ms. Mobley an apology.
Ms. Mobley stood her ground when officials in Mississippi tried to destroy Emmett Till’s body. She insisted that his casket remain open, and the JET magazine cover photo of Emmett Till’s bloated face was seen around the world.
Minister Benjamin Muhammad, head of the Hip Hop Summit Action Network and a longtime civil rights activist, calls Ms. Mobley “a courageous freedom fighting mother.” He said the photo of Emmett Till motivated him at the age of 11 to stand up for Black people in their struggles for justice.
“The Emmett Till case still serves as a reminder of our continuing struggle. The case must be re-opened and the culpability of Mississippi and the federal government must be exposed,” Mr. Muhammad said, adding that he agreed with analysts that Emmett Till became a martyr for the fledgling civil rights movement.
Observers are hoping that the name of Emmett Till will again help to raise the consciousness of Black people.
“There are folks walking around free that killed Emmett Till,” said Dr. Ray Winbush, of Morgan State University in Baltimore. There are hundreds more walking around who have taken part in lynching Black people, he added.
Mr. Winbush said he was working with Dr. Danny E. Blanchard, assistant to Alabama Governor Don Siegleman on a project to solve the many lynching cases where no one has been brought to justice.
“The bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., and how the men responsible were all finally brought to trial started the ball to rolling,” Dr. Blanchard told The Final Call. “I am working on 17 cases in Alabama where the Whites who are guilty in lynching Blacks are still alive and we want them punished.”
Dr. Blanchard said that since he started the project two years ago he has received at least 11 death threats.
“I remember that my father made me look at the photo of Emmett Till. I was scared, the way they bashed in his skull, it was an ugly sight,” he said.
Then Dr. Blanchard repeated something that Mr. Evers said: “We are not afraid of White folks anymore; we are going to bring every White person to justice that had anything to do with the lynching of a Black person. We are reviewing photos of lynchings. We are trying to identify those that were spectators, because they are guilty, too. We want every attorney general in the South to review their lynching cases and to turn over the evidence to us,” Dr. Blanchard insisted.
Two other Black men agree that it is no longer necessary to be afraid of White folks. Simeon Wright, 60, of Chicago, was 12-years-old the night that Emmett Till was snatched from the bed that they were sleeping in.
“Moses Wright is my father. They sent me away right after the trial,” he said.
Roosevelt Crawford, 63, of Detroit, Mich., was with Emmett Till that day in Bryant’s grocery store. “Emmett was full of fun and he was outgoing,” Mr. Crawford said. The one thing both men say is a lie is that they dared Emmett Till to whistle at Carolyn Bryant.
“We knew better than to do something so stupid,” Simeon Wright said emphatically. “I do remember Emmett whistling when Ms. Bryant went to her car, but that is all, and that was not worth him losing his life,” Mr. Wright added.
Mr. Crawford said another lie printed in the newspapers was that Emmett talked about having White girlfriends. “He was 14-years-old. What did he know about White women?” Mr. Crawford said. “That is a big lie they told to excuse their killing him.”
When asked why they had waited so long to speak out, they both said the first person to ever ask them what they knew about Emmett Till was Keith Beauchamp.
“Time for folks to know the truth,” they said.