What is: The restored Tallahatchie County Courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi. The symmetry of it all…and yet the tortured curve of Justice.
What was: On September 23, 1955, after a 5 day trial for the murder of Emmett Till, Roy Bryant and J. W Milan were acquitted by an all-white all-male jury of the murder. The trial drew national and international attention, galvanizing the civil rights movement. The jury took 67 minutes to reach a decision with a juror noting it would have been shorter if they had not gone for some refreshments — simply to extend the time.
The trial included bravery as Emmett Till’s great Uncle, Mose Wright, a sharecropper, stood up and identified the two white men in court as the individuals who had kidnapped the 14 year old boy. Several other African American witnesses bravely came forward to testify and then had to be spirited out of the State after their testimony for their own safety. There were rumors of other witnesses, who could not be found and were likely threatened and hidden by “authorities” and “co-conspirators” who were never charged.
The trial also included conspiracy theories such as the body was not really the body of the dead boy.
On January 24, 1956, Look magazine published the confessions of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant. The physical evidence used in the trial disappeared, as did the transcript of the trial. In 2005 the trial transcript was recovered by the FBI.
Twisted justice. No Justice…67 years later
Be sure to visit the Emmett Till Interpretive Center.