WASHINGTON — It has been almost 64 years since Emmett Till’s body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi.
Till was a black, 14-year-old boy visiting family in Mississippi from Chicago.
“Emmett whistled to Carolyn Bryant (a white woman) and supposedly he also made some kind of sexual advances,” Duvalier Malone, political columnist for the Clarion Ledger newspaper said.
Till was kidnapped, tortured, and killed.
If he were still living, Till would have turned 78-years-old on July 25.
However, on the same day loved ones commemorated Till’s birthday, a disturbing picture surfaced on the internet.
A picture of three white students from the University of Mississippi went viral.
The photo showed two of the men standing with guns in front of a historical marker at the location where Till’s body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River.
The sign was riddled with bullet holes.
“This is the type of hate that is in the hearts of many Americans,” Malone reacted. “I wasn’t surprised. That historical marker has been damaged time and time again.”
Malone grew up several miles away from the place where Till was killed in Mississippi but now works in D.C. as a political columnist and consultant.
“They drove there to make a point,” he said. “The point they’ve done from time and time again is that there is no place for remembering this.”
Many people credit Till’s story as being the start of the civil rights movement.
His death made waves when his mother made the bold decision of having an open-casket funeral to show the world how badly he was beaten before being killed.
While Till’s death was the catalyst for many victories in the fight for black equality, no one was ever convicted in his case and the investigation was closed.
A book by Timothy Tyson released in 2017 called "The Blood of Emmett Till" was a game changer.
“In the book, it said that Carolyn Bryant admitted that nothing that that young boy did deserved what happened to him and that part of her story was a lie,” Malone said.
According to Tyson, Bryant admitted that Emmett did whistle but did not make sexual advances.
“That’s what brought this story back into a full movement because at that point…the testimony from Carolyn Bryant would be new evidence for the FBI to take a look at,” Malone explained.
The FBI reopened the investigation into Emmett Till’s killing after the book was released, but the investigation is still pending.
Malone said a different decision in the case would bring closure and show “that no one is above the law – black, white, indifferent – when you do something that is not right.”
In 2018, Tyson stated that he did not have the recording that would have had the evidence of Bryant admitting “that nothing that young boy did ever deserved this.”
As a result of Tyson’s statement, Bryant’s family said she never said that she lied about Till making sexual advances in the interview.
Malone has been behind organizing rallies to demand an apology from Bryant’s family and to hold the FBI accountable during their investigation.
He said the picture that recently went viral is a reminder of a painful time in American history.
“Those bullets remind us of every part of hate, and racism, and a lynching that we don’t want to remember again in this country like that,” he said.
The students were suspended from their fraternity and may face a criminal investigation.
The vandalized historical marker is being replaced by a bulletproof sign in the same location.
Till’s casket currently sits inside of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C.
Malone has organized several events and participated in work surrounding Till's case. Here are some examples:
In February 2017, he organized the “We Demand Justice Rally for Emmett Till” after hearing the news of Carolyn Bryant alleged story recant.
In July 2018, the Department of Justice reopened Till's case.
Justice for Emmett Till: Has the heart of America changed?