The Emmett Till Murder Trial: A Chronology
by Douglas O. Linder

Rally in New York City on October 11, 1955, protesting the verdict in the Emmett Till murder trial

July 25, 1941
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.
August 24, 1955
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.
August 26, 1955
Roy Bryant, 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 Till and his wife.  When he asks Carolyn about the incident, she urges her husband to forget about it.  But he doesn't.
August 27, 1955
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."
August 28, 1955
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 heard the 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 take Till 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 that 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.
August 31, 1955
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 Emmett Till.
September 1, 1955
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.
September 3, 1955
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.
September 4, 1955
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 Emmett Till.
September 7, 1955
A Tallahatchie 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.
September 19, 1955
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 is selected.
September 20, 1955
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 prosecution.
September 21, 1955
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.
September 22, 1955
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."
September 23, 1955
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.
Sept.- Oct. 1955
Hundreds of 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 skyrockets.
November 9, 1955
A Leflore County grand jury refuses to indict Bryant and Milam on kidnapping charges, and the two are released from custody.
January 24, 1956
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.
An unsuccessful 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.
The Justice 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.
February 2007
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.

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