A new bulletproof marker has been unveiled to honor Emmett Till after previous ones were repeatedly vandalized to erase the memory of the civil rights martyr.
In 1955, the 14-year-old black teenager was kidnapped in Money, Miss. He was beaten and lynched for allegedly flirting with a white cashier at a local store, which was a huge offense at the time.
The marker was erected near the Tallahatchie River where Till’s body was found days later, but was repeatedly vandalized, the latest was this year.
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On Saturday, Till’s family members gathered at the Graball Landing, the spot where the 14-year-old’s brutalized body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River after his murder.
Surrounded by a vast cotton field and quintessential Mississippi flora, they watched as the new Till memorial was unveiled, this one 10 times heavier than the last, and made of bulletproof steel, reports the HuffPost.
“This marker answers the question as to what we do with our history,” said Reverend Willie Williams, co-director of the Emmett Till Memorial Commission, which advocated for the new marker. “Do we learn from it? Do we use it to help our society have greater respect for humanity? This answers that.”
Till’s cousins Rev. Wheeler Parker — the last living witness of his kidnapping was among numerous family members in attendance to christen the new marker.
The new commemorative sign is made of reinforced steel and a thick acrylic layer unlike previous markers placed near the location. It is currently under the watch of surveillance cameras and may eventually be surrounded by a gate, according to the memorial commission.
In July this year, three white University of Mississippi students were suspended from their fraternity house after posing with guns in front of the bullet-riddled sign memorializing Till.
A photo showed the three young white students from Kappa Alpha fraternity smiling as they held the firearms, including an AR-15–style semiautomatic rifle, in front of the memorial at night.
The U.S. federal government last year reopened the murder case of Till following the discovery of “new information”.
The new information was unknown but it followed the publication of a book by historian Timothy B. Tyson, who quotes a white woman, Carolyn Donham, as acknowledging during a 2008 interview that she wasn’t truthful when she testified that Till grabbed her, whistled and made sexual advances at a store in 1955.