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1955 Kidnapping and Murder of Emmett Till

The Long Arm of the Law
Reopened Investigation into the 1955 Kidnapping and Murder of Emmett Till

06/01/04

etillh.jpgIt was a horrible case. In the summer of 1955, 14-year-old African-American Emmett Till had gone on vacation from Chicago to visit family in Money, Mississippi. He was shopping at a store owned by Roy and Carolyn Bryantand someone said he whistled at Mrs. Bryant, a white woman.

At some point around August 28, he was kidnapped, beaten, shot in the head, had a large metal fan tied to his neck with barbed wire, and was thrown into the Tallahatchie River. His body was soon recovered, and an investigation was opened.

It took fewer than four weeks for the case to go to trial: Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam were accused of the murder, and an all white, all male jury acquitted both of them. No one else was ever indicted or prosecuted for involvement in the kidnapping or murder. Bryant and Milam, though, later confessed and told a magazine journalist all the grisly details of their crime. They are both, now, long deceased.

Emmett Till’s murder has never been forgotten or forgiven. Now, renewed focus on that historic case has suggested that others might have been involved and while the five-year statute of limitations has expired for federal prosecution, prosecution by Mississippi officials remains possible.

We are seeking information on this case. “If anyone responsible for the murder of Emmett Till is identified and brought to trial, it will be through information held by someone who lived or still lives in the area surrounding Money, Mississippi, or from something they were told by an elderly relative who lived in the area,” says Bill Jenkins, in charge of the FBI’s Jackson Office. “We are dedicated to the identification and prosecution of any participant in this heinous crime.”

If you have any knowledge of the events surrounding the murder of Emmett Till, please call the FBI’s Jackson Office. It is never too late for justice to be served, never too late to bring closure to Emmett Till’s family.

This renewed investigation is a cooperative venture between Mississippi District Attorney Joyce Chiles, U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee, federal attorneys, FBI special agents, and local law enforcement.