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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: The closed Strider Academy, a PK-12 school in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, which operated from 1971 until 2018.

What was: The school was established in 1971 as a segregation academy to allow white parents to avoid sending their children to racially integrated public schools.  Strider Academy was named for the sheriff who investigated and obstructed justice in the murder of Emmett Till.  He went on to become a state senator. Shortly before his death in 1970, Clarence Strider donated the land for Strider Academy.

The school campus suffered two fires in two weeks in August 1977. The main building and the field house were both destroyed. The FBI was involved in the investigation.  In 1989, Greenwood public schools trustee Jeff Milman resigned after the NAACP protested his decision to enroll his children in Strider Academy instead of racially integrated public schools. Milman stated that his children wanted to attend Strider and that it was closer to his residence.

Strider Academy said it admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school and that it does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, tuition assistance programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.

However, as of 2016, the school’s students were 96% white. Filings for the 2015–16 school year indicates that all seventy-two students at the school were white. Tallahatchie County is 54% black.

What is: Tallahatchie Sheriff’s Office and Jail, Charleston, Mississippi

What was: An imposing man weighing 270 pounds, Strider was the sheriff of Tallahatchie County and a wealthy plantation owner in the heart of the cotton-growing Delta. His property could be identified from miles away by the letters S-T-R-I-D-E-R, which he insisted be painted on the roofs of sharecroppers’ shacks.  Strider was the first official to learn that a body had been discovered by a young man fishing in the Tallahatchie River.  He would also become the first person to question whether the body they found that day was a black man or even Emmett Till.

Originally Roy Bryant and half-brother JW Milan were arrested and held in Leflore County jail for kidnapping.  After an 18-member grand jury hearing held in Sumner issued indictments for kidnapping and murder on September 6, in Tallahatchie County, Milam and Bryant were moved to this jail in the Tallahatchie County seat at Charleston.

Carolyn Bryant’s “memoir” notes that one evening, she and her sister-in-law, Juanita Milam, were “smuggled” into the jail for a lovely dinner and evening with their husbands.  She also recounts an evening before the trial when Milam and Bryant showed up for a lovely extended family gathering at Leslie Milam’s plantation house (the same place where Emmett Till was tortured and murdered out in the shed).

There is another reason this jail has a strange place in the Emmett Till story.  At least two of JW Milan’s black employees were forced to be involved in Till’s kidnapping and murder. The employees were Levi “Too Tight” Collins and Henry Lee Loggins. Because Loggins and Collins were eyewitnesses to the murder they held the potential, if they could be found and convinced to testify, to fundamentally alter the legal proceedings.

Loggins and Collins, however, could not be found. According to one of the Black reporters covering the story, Jimmy Hicks, the men had been booked in this jail, in Charleston, 28 miles away from the trial, to preclude the possibility that they might be found and might testify. https://tillapp.emmett-till.org/items/show/7