Mississippi

Emmett Till memorial has a new sign. This time, it’s bulletproof.

Emmett Till’s family stood on the shore of the Tallahatchie River just outside of Glendora, Mississippi, on Saturday. It was there, that, it is believed, the body of 14-year-old Emmett was pulled from the water after he had been kidnapped, tortured and lynched nearly 65 years ago.

For decades, the spot was unmarked, but in 2008, signs detailing Emmett’s harrowing journey were installed around the region, and for the first time there was a memorial to the African-American teenager whose death galvanized the civil rights movement.

But the sign at the Tallahatchie River location was stolen and thrown into the river.

A replacement was soon marred with bullet holes.

Then came a third, which was hit with more bullets.

Now, there’s a fourth sign, this one made of steel. It’s over an inch thick, and, the manufacturer says, it’s bulletproof.

The dedication of the new sign opened old wounds for his cousins, including Ollie Gordon, 71, and her daughter, Airickca Gordon-Taylor, 50. They traveled to Mississippi from Chicago, Emmett’s hometown, for the ceremony.

“What they did to Emmett was so ugly that even the Tallahatchie River spewed his body back out so he could be seen and found,” Gordon-Taylor said Sunday. She runs the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation, named after Emmett’s mother.

“Vandalism is a hate crime,” she said. “Basically my family is still being confronted with a hate crime against Emmett Till and it’s almost 65 years later.”

Gordon was 7 years old when her cousin was killed after Carolyn Bryant Donham, a white woman, said the teenager had grabbed her and wolf-whistled at her. In 2017, she told a historian that her allegations against Emmett were false.

Ceremonies like the one Saturday provide the family with a sense of gratification, Gordon-Taylor said.

“OK, you want to shoot it down? We’re going to put it right back up,” she said. “You’re never going to forget about Emmett Till and that he was here. Our family has never received judicial justice from the state of Mississippi for Emmett’s murder, so, in some form, this is us saying, ‘Until you do right by us, basically, you’re never going to forget.’”

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