On Wednesday, the House passed a unanimous bill to honor Emmett Till and his mother Mamie Till-Mobley with a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal, The Associated Press reported. Till, a Black teen, was lynched by White supremacists in Mississippi on August 28, 1955, after he was accused of flirting with a White woman.
During his funeral, Till-Mobley, who passed away in 2003, insisted that her son’s casket be kept open so that America could see what had been done to him. The photos of his body were published by Jet magazine. The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor Congress awards to civilians.
Till was lynched after Carolyn Bryant Donham, a White woman, accused the Black teen of flirting with her at a family store in Money, Mississippi. His August 1955 killing set the growing Civil Rights Movement into motion and caused a rallying cry nationwide. Four days before his killing, it was rumored that he had flirted with Bryant. This speculation led to two White men kidnapping Till, later beating him, and shooting him dead.
Bryant’s then-husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother J.W. Milam were charged with Till’s murder and acquitted by an all-white jury. Both men, who have since died, confessed to the killing in a paid magazine interview months later.
Senators Cory Booker and Richard Burr introduced the Senate bill – whilst Rep. Bobby Rush put forward the legislation’s House version. The bill to honor Till-Mobley with a commemorative postage stamp was also sponsored by Rush.
“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,” Booker said in a statement.
The medal will be handed over to the National Museum of African American History. It will be exhibited close to Till‘s casket.
The honors bestowed upon Till and his mother comes after President Joe Biden signed into law the Emmett Till Antilynching Act. Congress had previously been unable to pass legislation of such nature almost 200 times, The Associated Press reported. Former North Carolina Rep. George Henry White introduced the first bill in 1900. At the time, White was Congress’ only Black member.