Rush, Talent, Schumer & Rangel To Justice Department And State Of Mississippi: Expedite Emmett Till Murder Case New Resolution Would Speed Inquiry To Bring Emmett Till's Murderers To Justice

Nov 19, 2004
Press Release

Chicago, IL. ---- U.S. Senators Jim Talent (R-MO) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Representatives Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) and Charles Rangel (D-NY) today introduced a bipartisan, bicameral resolution calling on the US Department of Justice and the State of Mississippi to act more quickly to hold accountable those responsible for the August 1955 murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American who was visiting family in Money, Mississippi.  The lawmakers' resolution directs the Department of Justice to pursue this investigation in a timely manner due to the amount of time that has passed since the crime was committed and the age of the witnesses.


"This is a stain on our country's judicial record," said Senator Talent. "Emmett Till was murdered because he was black and his murderers were acquitted because they are white. No matter how much time has passed, if there are still people out there who were responsible for the brutal murder of Emmett Till, they should be brought to justice. Our resolution recognizes that the witnesses in this case are not getting any younger and we call on the Department of Justice and the state of Mississippi and to act expeditiously so justice can be done."


"In this rare instance justice delayed may not be justice denied," Senator Schumer said. "The murder of Emmett Till was one of the seminal moments in our nations civil rights movement, and we need the Justice Department and the State of Mississippi to conduct a thorough, complete and -- most important -- speedy investigation.  Time is of the essence because of the advanced age of many of the potential witnesses, and we haven't a day to spare."


 My heart remains heavy knowing that co-conspirators involved in the murder of Emmett Till are free, while Tills memory in American history remains wrapped in deception, corruption and racism, said Representative Rush.  Its been fifty years since the murder, and I hope that that this recent legislative action will accelerate justice so we can bring closure to Emmett Tills family and the American public.


Congressman Rush, who introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives this past February considers the concentrated efforts of both the House and now the Senate as a significant step and provides further evidence to the Department of Justice and the state of Mississippi that the murder case of Emmett Till demands a swift and thorough investigation.


"With its decision to reopen the investigation into the murder of Emmett Till the Justice Department finally eased the pain of the Till family with the assurance that their son's killers would be brought to justice.  They had waited 50 years.  Every day of delay in following through on that commitment makes it look more like an empty promise.  The search for justice and closure must begin now," Representative Rangel said.


The lawmakers' resolution directs the Department of Justice to pursue this investigation in a timely manner due to the amount of time that has passed since the crime was committed and the age of the witnesses. The resolution calls on the Department to report the findings of their investigation to Congress in a thorough and swift manner.


Emmett Till was born and raised in Chicago. While in Mississippi he allegedly whistled at Carolyn Bryant. On August 28, Roy Bryant, Carolyn's husband, and his half brother, J. W. Milam, kidnapped Emmett from the home of his uncle, Moses Wright. They dragged him to banks of the Tallahatchie River, beat him severely, tortured him, and shot him in the head. Bryant and Milam dumped his body into the river. Three days later, Emmett's body was pulled from the river and returned to his mother, Mamie Till, in Chicago. She decided to leave his casket open for 4 days to show the public what had happened to her son.


Tens of thousands of people paid their respects in person and the press published photos of Emmett's mutilated corpse around the world.  In September 1955, Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam stood trial for Till's murder in Mississippi. An all white jury acquitted both men, after several women and African Americans were barred from serving on the jury; they reached their verdict after only 67 minutes of deliberation. Emmett's uncle, Moses Wright, and another resident of the town, Willie Reed, both testified in court. They were forced to flee to Chicago because their lives were in danger following their testimony. Worldwide, there was tremendous outrage at the murder and subsequent acquittal, especially after Roy and J.W. Milam bragged about killing Emmett after the trial ended, and Milam was actually quoted as confessing to it in an article after the trial.   In November 1955, Wright and Reed returned to Mississippi and testified before a grand jury investigating the pending kidnapping charges against Bryant and Milam. The grand jury refused to indict them. 


The outrage that resulted from an all-white jury finding the accused two white men innocent of the brutal crime was a key catalyst launching the Civil Rights movement in the United States.  In recent years, Keith A. Beachamp a documentary film maker from Fort Greene, Brooklyn found new evidence about the case, including never-before- heard eyewitness accounts while making his documentary "The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till."   These findings prompted the Justice Department to a nominal reopening of the case, but Civil Rights leaders are concerned that the inquiry is not moving quick enough to interview elderly witnesses.


 A copy of Rep. Rushs resolution is attached.