Indiana Daily Student

Black Voices: U.S. Justice Department closes Emmett Till case after 66 years

<p>A woman holds a sign in honor of Emmett Till during a protest June 13, 2020 in Chicago.</p>

A woman holds a sign in honor of Emmett Till during a protest June 13, 2020 in Chicago.

Last week, the U.S. Justice Department closed the murder case of Emmett Till, which is yet another act that demonstrates how the United States continues to fail Black people. 

"A recantation would directly contradict both her testimony at the state proceedings in 1955 and the statements she provided to the FBI during the previous investigation," the Department of Justice said in a statement released to CNN.

For 66 years, Till’s murder has gone without seeing justice and his killers have gone on to live their lives. 

In 1955, two white men murdered 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi after a white woman claimed he flirted her, according to the above CNN article. 

Within the CNN article, it is noted that Till was visiting family in Mississippi during the summer. He lived in Chicago with his mother Mamie Bradley and did not understand how different the southern states were during this time. 

On Aug. 24, 1955, Till went to a store in Money, Mississippi, and made some form of contact with Carolyn Bryant Donham. Donham said Till flirted with her and told her husband. Donham’s husband Roy Bryant and his brother J.W. Milam went to Till’s family’s house a few days later, where they murdered and tortured Till.

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Bryant and Milam both died of cancer in the 1990s but were able to live a life far longer than Till’s. Both of Till’s murderers were acquitted of their crimes and have passed away without ever receiving any form of punishment for their inhumane acts. 

In 2017, Donham met with a historian and said she lied about the claims she made about Till, according to The New York Times. Donham had another interview with a professor from Duke University and denied she had recanted her false accusation on Till. With this information, the justice department was unable to successfully prove Donham’s claims to be false.

Regardless of the details surrounding Donham’s truth, Till did not deserve to die. The justice department knows this. Unfortunately, the case is too old for anyone to now be prosecuted, so Till may never receive the justice he truly deserved. The opening of this case and recent actions only prove there is still quite a bit of work left to be done to ensure justice for all people, especially Black people. 

For many Black people, this case is a reminder history is not as far removed as some of us might believe it is. History is repeating itself every day.

Till deserves justice, and the justice department should feel the responsibility to ensure the truth surrounding this case be told.

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