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What is: Sunflower County Seed Barn, Sunflower County, MS

What was: This barn is the location where Emmett Till was beaten and, most likely, murdered. The barn is on what was then Leslie Milam’s (the brother of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant) plantation.

According to the testimonies of Willie Reed, his grandfather Add Reed, and Mandy Bradley during the murder trial, this barn was where Emmett Till was taken the night that he was kidnapped. Willie Reed testified to seeing a white pickup with four white men and three black men–one on the floor and two sitting on the rails beside him–pull up to the barn. Soon after, he heard what sounded like a person being badly beaten inside of the barn. Willie Reed then saw J.W. Milam come out of the barn, get a drink of water, and return to the barn. (1) Add Reed supported Willie Reed’s testimony, claiming to have seen J.W. Milam and the white truck. Mandy Bradley testified that she saw the men going in and out of the barn around 6:30-7:00am. She saw the men back the truck into the shed, then drive away. (2)

The testimonies of Willie Reed, Add Reed, and Mandy Bradley had the potential to upset the Emmett Till murder trial, as their testimony revealed that the murder actually occurred in Sunflower County, not in Tallahatchie County, which would shift the jurisdiction of the courts. However, the trial remained in Tallahatchie County.

Following their testimony, Willie Reed, Add Reed, and Mandy Bradley all had to flee Mississippi.

This site has often been written out of the Emmett Till narrative due to William Bradford Huie’s article in LOOK Magazine. Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam could not be tried again for Emmett Till’s murder due to double jeopardy laws, but the other people involved in the murder, namely Leslie Milam who owned the barn where the murder took place, could still be prosecuted. Huie needed signed consent forms from each person involved in the murder to publish the article, so Huie re-wrote the story of the murder to involve only Milam and Bryant, changing the location of the murder to a barn near Glendora, MS in Tallahatchie County.  As Dave Tell et al. note, “Although it is wrong, Huie’s story has been so influential that every single map published on the Till murder between the publication of LOOK’s article in January 1956 and 2005 left the Milam Plantation off the map entirely.” (3)

The barn is now under private ownership.

For more, visit the Emmett Till Interpretive Center

Source: https://www.tillnationalpark.org/sunflower-county-seed-barn

Footnotes 1. Devery Anderson, Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement, University Press of Mississippi, 2015, pp. 128-9.

  1. ibid, p. 133.
  2. Dave Tell, Davis Houck, Pablo Correa & the Emmett Till Memorial Commission, “Seed Barn, Milam Plantation,” Emmett Till Memory Project, 2021, https://tillapp.emmett-till.org/items/show/4

What is: a vacant lot, where Dr. TRM Howard lived, Mound Bayou, Mississippi.  His place burned down several years ago.

What was: Mound Bayou is 42 miles away from Sumner, MS where the Emmett Till trial occurred. However, it is an essential place in civil rights history for numerous reasons, but among them was that Mound Bayou and Dr. Howard’s house in particular, provided protection for witnesses, a home base for the black press, and a refuge for Till’s mother Mamie Till-Bradley. Without Mound Bayou and Dr Howard we would likely still not know what happened to Emmett Till.

Dr. Theodore Roosevelt Mason Howard was a legendary Mississippi activist and his charismatic style meant that threats on his life were common. In the years before Till was murdered, Howard already had a $1,000 price tag on his life. He traveled with armed bodyguards, and his home featured twenty-four-hour-a-day armed protection.  You get a sense of his home in #Tillthemovie

The sheer security of the Howard home explains why so many African Americans stayed with him when they came to Mississippi for the Till trial. It is why Till’s mother Mamie Till-Bradley, Michigan Congressman Charles C. Diggs, and other African Americans used the Howard home as their base camp.  Howard provided the motorcade that protected Mamie Till when she attended the trial.  Local stories tell of Mamie being wrapped up in a carpet on the floor of a car, as the body guards drove the 40 miles to court.

It was Howard’s home where on Sunday, September 18, 1955, around midnight when a young black plantation worker named Frank Young arrived claiming he had direct evidence linking J. W. Milam, Roy Bryant, and four others to the murder. He also broke the then-shocking news that Till had been killed in Sunflower County. He told Howard that, at approximately 6 am on August 28, Till had been conveyed via a pickup truck with four white people in the front and three African Americans in the back (including Till) to the seed barn on the Milam Plantation operated by J. W. Milam’s brother Leslie.

Young also told Howard that witnesses heard desperate screams emanating from that seed barn; that they saw J. W. Milam emerge from the barn for a drink of water; that the screams gradually faded; and that a body was taken from the barn, covered with a tarpaulin, and placed in the back of a truck. He further assured Howard that this entire story could be verified by five Black witnesses: himself, Willie Reed, Add Reed, Walter Billingsley, and Amanda Bradley.

The next evening (after the first day of the trial was complete), Howard called a strategy meeting at his home in Mound Bayou. Present at the meeting were NAACP officers Medgar Evers and Ruby Hurley and three influential members of the Black press: James Hicks, L. Alex Wilson (Tri-State Defender), and Simeon Booker (Jet). Although Hurley, Booker, and Hicks wanted to go public with the story immediately, Howard prevailed upon them to hold the story until the safety of the five witnesses could be found and their safety assured. They agreed to contact the state’s lawyers through a trusted member of the white press, the Memphis Press-Scimitar’s Clark Porteous.

Although T.R.M. Howard is generally remembered for his 1951 founding of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, Howard’s civil rights credentials were vast. He organized a non-violent movement in the Mississippi Delta four years before the Montgomery Bus Boycott (and three years before Emmett Till’s murder), he organized annual civil rights rallies, and he stoked Medgar Evers’ nascent activism by hiring him.

Several years after the Till trial, Dr. Howard himself would be smuggled out of Mississippi as a KKK hit was planned on him.

Source: https://tillapp.emmett-till.org/items/show/10

 

 

It’s a seed shed in Mississippi….on private property and often written out of the Emmett Till story. But, Imagine the screams of a 14 year old. And Willie, who saw things and heard things, had to evacuated after testimony at trial and then had a mental breakdown…..

What is: Sunflower County Seed Barn, Sunflower County, MS

What was: This barn is the location where Emmett Till was beaten and, most likely, murdered. The barn is on what was then Leslie Milam’s (the brother of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant) plantation.

According to the testimonies of Willie Reed, his grandfather Add Reed, and Mandy Bradley during the murder trial, this barn was where Emmett Till was taken the night that he was kidnapped.

Willie Reed testified to seeing a white pickup with four white men and three black men–one on the floor and two sitting on the rails beside him–pull up to the barn. Soon after, he heard what sounded like a person being badly beaten inside of the barn. Willie Reed then saw J.W. Milam come out of the barn, get a drink of water, and return to the barn. (1) Add Reed supported Willie Reed’s testimony, claiming to have seen J.W. Milam and the white truck. Mandy Bradley testified that she saw the men going in and out of the barn around 6:30-7:00am. She saw the men back the truck into the shed, then drive away. (2)

The testimonies of Willie Reed, Add Reed, and Mandy Bradley had the potential to upset the Emmett Till murder trial, as their testimony revealed that the murder actually occurred in Sunflower County, not in Tallahatchie County, which would shift the jurisdiction of the courts. However, the trial remained in Tallahatchie County.

Following their testimony, Willie Reed, Add Reed, and Mandy Bradley all had to flee Mississippi. Willie was under police protection for several months. He then had a mental breakdown but went on to live in Chicago under a different name — first in secrecy and later in relative obscurity. For decades, he worked as a hospital orderly. He died in 2013. His wife said that she didnt know about his role in the Till case for seven or eight years into their marriage. Memories burdened him until the end of his life. Sometimes, she said, he would wake up from his sleep “moaning and turning.” In the FBI investigation of the Till murder in the early 2000s, Willie made a final trip to Mississippi to help investigators identify this site and part of the seed shed associated with the Lynching. https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/ddfe67e0-f2e5-11e2…

This site has often been written out of the Emmett Till narrative due to William Bradford Huie’s article in LOOK Magazine. Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam could not be tried again for Emmett Till’s murder due to double jeopardy laws, but the other people involved in the murder, namely Leslie Milam who owned the barn where the murder took place, could still be prosecuted. Huie needed signed consent forms from each person involved in the murder to publish the article, so Huie re-wrote the story of the murder to involve only Milam and Bryant, changing the location of the murder to a barn near Glendora, MS in Tallahatchie County. As Dave Tell et al. note, “Although it is wrong, Huie’s story has been so influential that every single map published on the Till murder between the publication of LOOK’s article in January 1956 and 2005 left the Milam Plantation off the map entirely.” (3)

The barn is now under private ownership.

Footnotes 1. Devery Anderson, Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement, University Press of Mississippi, 2015, pp. 128-9.

2. ibid, p. 133.
3. Dave Tell, Davis Houck, Pablo Correa & the Emmett Till Memorial Commission, “Seed Barn, Milam Plantation,” Emmett Till Memory Project, 2021, https://tillapp.emmett-till.org/items/show/4.

What is: Mose Wright’s sharecroppinig home.  Money, Mississippi

Emmett Till was kidnapped from the location seen in the historic images below. It no longer exists.  The image Im sharing is about half a mile from the original location.  On the evening of August 28, 1955. He was staying at the home of his great uncle and aunt, Moses and Elizabeth Wright, who sharecropped 25 acres of cotton on the Grover Frederick Plantation. Source:https://tillapp.emmett-till.org/items/show/13

What was:  On Saturday, August 27th 1955, Mose Wright, his three sons, the three relatives from Chicago including Emmett Till and some of the neighbors went into the city of Greenwood for some fun. The boys walked the busy streets, gazed at the nightclubs and were amazed by the large crowds of the city.  They would drive back to Money, MS and by 2am all were asleep after a big night out.  Simeon Wright and Emmett shared a bed.

Suddenly there was a loud knock at the door.  Mr Bryant identified himself saying he needed to talk the boy who did all the talking.   Another man had a flashlight and a gun. They cased the house and found Emmett Till.  They made him get dressed and took him.  They told Mose Wright, who had said he was 64 years old, “if you ever know any of us here tonight, you wont live to be 65.” Mose asked them to just give Emmett a whipping and Moses’ wife offered money for any damages Emmett had caused.

Emmett was driven away into the night.

There is a warrant for Carolyn Bryant’s arrest in relation to the kidnapping. She is still alive and the warrant has never been fulfilled.

From FBI Investigation in the 2000s

Home of Mose Wright, Emmett Till’s great uncle, where Till was staying when he has abducted and murdered. Sept. 1, 1955