||Emmett Louis Till is
born near Chicago.
|August 20, 1955
||Emmett Till arrives
at the train station in Grenada, Mississippi, where he is picked up by
relatives. Till is planning to stay with his Mississippi
relatives on his two-week summer vacation.
||About 7:30 p.m.,
Till in a carload with seven other young blacks, pulls up in front of
Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market in Money, Mississippi. According
to one account (Huie's Wolf Whistle),
Till is challenged by one of the other blacks to try to get a date with
the store's 21-year-old clerk, Carolyn Bryant. (Till had boasted to his
relatives about dating a white girl in Chicago and carried a photo of a
white girl in his billfold.) Alone in the store with Carolyn
Bryant, Till allegedly grabs her wrist and asks her for a date and
tells her that
he's been with white women before [testimony of Carolyn Bryant].
Concerned, one of Till's cousins runs into the store and leads Till
out, as Carolyn Bryant heads out the front door to get a pistol from
her car. As she crosses the road heading to the car, Till lets
out a loud "wolf whistle." The young blacks quickly get back into
their car and drive away.
Carolyn's husband, returns to Mississippi after working on a shrimping
boat in Texas. That afternoon, at the store, an African-American
teenager tells Roy about the August 24 incident at the store involving
his wife. When he asks Carolyn about the incident, she urges her
husband to forget about it. But he doesn't.
||About 10:30 p.m.,
Roy Bryant's half-brother J. W. Milam stops by Bryant's store.
Bryant tells Milam that he plans to "whip the niggah." In a
letter to his mother, Emmett ("Bobo") writes, "I am having a fine time."
||After filling up his
pickup with gas, Milam returns to Bryant's store, wakes up Bryant, and
the two men (accompanied by an unidenified black man, most likely Otha
Johnson) drive to "Preacher" Mose Wright's house, where they've
boy from Chicago is staying. Arriving at the Wright home, Bryant
tells Mose Wright that he wants to talk "to that boy who did the
talking down at Money." Confronting Till in his bed, Milam asks
him if he was the one who did the talking at the store, and Till admits
that the was. Bryant and Milam lead Till out to there pickup,
after warning Wright not to ever tell anyone they were there.
According to Milam's account, the two men planned at first only to whip
Till. They and Elmer Kimbrell bring Till to the Bryant Store and
then drive 75 miles west through the night looking for a
scary spot on a bluff above the Mississippi River near Rosedale,
Mississippi, but can't find the site. They
drive to Leslie Milam's farm near Drew, Mississippi. Several men
to a barn and begin to pistol whip him. [Note: An eyewitness,
Willie Reed, testified at trial that he saw four whites and three
blacks riding in the truck that entered the Milam
property and presumably carried Emmett Till. Reed also testified
that he later heard whipping and
hollering sounds coming from the barn. After the trial, several
men--including both whites and blacks--admitted to friends or relatives
they were with Milam and Bryant on the night Till was kidnapped and
murdered. None have been prosecuted.] When Till, uncowed,
tells Bryant and Milam and the other men that he had been with white
women before in Chicago,
they decide to kill him. According to Bryant and Milam's account,
they drive to the Progressive Ginning
Company near Boyle, Mississippi, where they take a heavy ginning fan
that they plan to use as a weight, then drive to over the Tallahatchie
River Bridge to a deserted spot on a dirt road. They order Till
to undress, shoot him in the head, tie the fan to his neck with barbed
wire, and throw his body into the Tallahatchie River. Meanwhile,
Mose Wright contacts the Leflore County sheriff about Till's
abduction. In the afternoon, both Bryant and Milam are arrested
and jailed on charges of kidnapping.
||While fishing in the
Tallahatchie River, a 17-year-old boy sees a pair of knees sticking out
of the water and calls the sheriff's office. After the body is
pulled out of the water, Mose Wright identifies it as being the body of
||There is widespread
condemnation of the killing of Emmett Till, both in Mississippi and
across the nation. Roy Wilkins, head of the NAACP, calls Till's
killing "a lynching." Mississippi's Governor, Hugh White, urges
"a vigorous prosecution" of the case.
||Till's mother orders
that Till's casket appear with the top lifted, so people could see his
horribly damaged face. "Let the people see what they did to my
boy!" she sobs to the press.
||Crowds estimated in
size from 10,000 to 50,000 descend on the Chicago funeral home, leaving
it "in shambles." Burial is postponed until September 6, to allow
additional time for the public to view Till's body. Meanwhile,
largely in response to the national attention the case has attracted,
powerful local people in Mississppi decide to use the upcoming Bryant
and Milam trial to send a message to outsiders. All five lawyers
of the town of Sumner, Mississippi agree to defend Bryant and
Milam. Meanwhile, Sheriff Strider states that he is not convinced
that the body pulled from the Tallahatchie River was really that of
County grand jury indicts Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam for the murder and
kidnapping of Emmett Till. Conviction on either charge could
carry the death penalty.
||The trial of Roy
Bryant and J. W. Milam for the murder of Emmett Till opens in Sumner,
Mississippi. By the end of the day, an all-white, all-male jury
||Testimony begins in
the Emmett Till Murder trial. More than seventy reporters and
photographers crowd the small courtroom for the opening of the
trial. Mose Wright and Till's mother both testify for the
||The state presents
three surprise witnesses, all African-Americans, who testify they saw
Milam and others around a barn, or heard whipping and hollering from
inside the barn, on the morning of the day Till was believed murdered.
||The state rests in
the Emmett Till Murder trial. The defense begins presenting its
witnesses. Carolyn Bryant testifies outside the presence of the
jury. Sheriff Strider testifies that he thought the body pulled
out of the river had been there "from ten to fifteen days," far too
long to be that of Till. An embalmer testifies that the body was
"bloated beyond recognition."
||After the defense
presents a series of character witnesses, closing arguments are
presented in the Bryant-Milam trial. After about an hour of
deliberating, the jury returns a "Not Guilty" verdict.
thousands of people, mostly in northern cities, attend rallies
protesting the verdict in the Till murder trial. In Mississippi,
however, membership in segregation-supporting White Citizens' Councils
||A Leflore County
grand jury refuses to indict Bryant and Milam on kidnapping charges,
and the two are released from custody.
||Look magazine published a story
about the Till case which includes excerpts from an interview conducted
by Bradford Huie of Bryant and Milam. The two men, now protected
by the Double Jeopardy Clause, admit to killing Emmett Till and
throwing his body in the Tallahatchie River.
attempt is made to assassinate Sheriff Strider, who has come to be
viewed by many African-Americans as the biggest villain in the Till
case. In part due to publicity about the Till case, Congress
passes the first Civil Rights Act since Reconstruction.
||Bob Dylan record a
song called "The Death of Emmett Till."
||John W. Milam dies
of cancer at age 61.
||Roy Bryant dies of
cancer at age 63.
Department announces it is reopening the Till case to determine if
anyone other than Bryant and Milam was involved and, if so, whether
they should be prosecuted under federal law.
||Emmett Till's body
is exhumed and autopsied. The body is positively identified.
||A Leflore County
jury, composed mostly of African-Americans, finds no credible evidence
to support the claim of a documentary film producer that up to 14
people were involved in the Till kidnapping and murder.