A memorial sign marking the place where Emmett Till’s mutilated body was discovered in a Mississippi river in 1955 is riddled with bullet holes — and has been routinely vandalized since it went up in 2007.
Till, a black Chicago teen whose racially charged murder was a catalyst for the civil rights movement, was killed on August 28, 1955 by two white men while visiting his uncle in Money, Miss. His murderers, J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, were acquitted by an all-white jury but later confessed to kidnapping, torturing and killing the 14-year-old because he had whistled at Bryant’s wife.
In 2007, the Emmett Till Memorial Commission erected eight site-markers, including a sign at the location where Till’s badly disfigured remains were recovered from the Tallahatchie River three days after he was murdered.
The teen had a cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire, his left eye and many of his teeth were missing, and he had a bullet hole in his right temple.
Filmmaker Kevin Wilson, Jr. posted a photo this week to Facebook — originally flagged by Trace — of the river site sign with roughly 50 bullet holes pierced through, rendering the plaque’s text nearly illegible.
By contrast, a similar site-marker at the Milam’s home was intact, “preserved and adorned with flowers,” according to a second photo posted by Wilson.
“We’ve still got a long way to go,” he wrote.
Some of the bullet holes in the river site-marker aren’t new. According to a photo posted by writer Christopher Hooks in 2013, the sign had already been shot at least 20 times from different angles.
Vandalism to signs memorializing Till’s death has been routine, a troubling trend first reported by Slate. An “Emmett Till Memorial” roadside marker in Greenwood, Miss. was stolen in 2007 and the sign at the Tallahatchie River site was ripped down by vandals in 2008, just after it went up.
“It shows that there’s still people who do not want to remember or talk about Emmett Till,” Patrick Weems, a project coordinator for the Emmett Till Memorial Commission, told the Daily News.
Weems said that the financially struggling organization can’t afford to routinely replace the vandalized signs and has instead launched a virtual tour of sites commemorating Till’s death, called the Emmett Till Memory Project.The site and smartphone app was created by a group of scholars and guides users to 51 sites in and around the Mississippi Delta that played a significant role in the teen’s murder and trial.
The Emmett Till Interpretive Center is raising money to fund the project and replace the bullet-riddled sign. So far they’ve raised over $500 of its $15,000 goal.