Senate Approves Bill To Posthumously Give Emmett Till And His Mother Nation’s Highest Civilian Honor

The United States Senate approved legislation to posthumously grant the Congressional Gold Medal to Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley.

In 1955, Emmett Till — a 14-year-old African-American — was accused of whistling at a white woman at a grocery store in Mississippi. In response, the woman’s husband and brother-in-law kidnapped, tortured, and murdered Till, disposing of his body in the Tallahatchie River. In order to draw attention to the injustice enabled by Jim Crow segregation, Mamie Till-Mobley insisted on an open casket funeral.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) — who proposed the legislation to give Till and his mother the nation’s highest civilian honor — celebrated its passage.

“At the age of 14, Emmett Till was abducted and lynched at the hands of white supremacists. His gruesome murder still serves as a solemn reminder of the terror and violence experienced by Black Americans throughout our nation’s history,” he said in a statement. “The courage and activism demonstrated by Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, in displaying to the world the brutality endured by her son helped awaken the nation’s conscience, forcing America to reckon with its failure to address racism and the glaring injustices that stem from such hatred.”

“More than six decades after his murder, I am proud to see the Senate pass long-overdue legislation that would award the Congressional Gold Medal to both Emmett and Mamie Till-Mobley in recognition of their profound contributions to our nation,” he continued.

Last month, federal officials closed the cold-case re-investigation of Till’s murder, stating that it could not substantiate a claim that a witness in the Till case recanted her testimony.

“In early 2017, new information emerged suggesting that the woman may have confessed to a professor, who later wrote a book about Till’s murder, that the account she provided to the state court in 1955 was untrue,” a Department of Justice press release explained. “Specifically, the professor asserted that, during a 2008 interview with the woman, she handed him a transcript of her sworn 1955 testimony and said, ‘[t]hat part’s not true.’ If credible, the professor’s assertion suggests that the woman lied in state court and confessed to having done so.”

“The alleged recantation raised questions about whether the woman would be willing to acknowledge to federal authorities that her prior versions of events had been untruthful and whether she now would provide new and accurate information relating to the abduction and murder of Till,” the statement continued. “The woman however, when asked about the alleged recantation, denied to the FBI that she ever recanted her testimony and provided no information beyond what was uncovered during the previous federal investigation. Although lying to the FBI is a federal offense, there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she lied to the FBI when she denied having recanted to the professor.”

“There is insufficient evidence to prove that she ever told the professor that any part of her testimony was untrue,” the agency added. “Although the professor represented that he had recorded two interviews with her, he provided the FBI with only one recording, which did not contain any recantation. In addition, although an assistant transcribed the two recordings, neither transcript contained the alleged recantation. The professor also provided inconsistent explanations about whether the missing recording included the alleged recantation or whether, instead, the woman made the key admission before he began recording the interview.”

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