We've got Mississippi on our minds. We traveled to Money, Mississippi, where we stood outside the decaying building that once housed a grocery infamous in American history.
In August, 1955, Emmett Till was a 14 year old boy from Chicago visiting relatives in Money, a small town in the Mississippi Delta. He may have spoken to 21 year old Carole Bryant, the white, married proprietor of the store. If so, that simple act was his death sentence.
Three nights later, Roy Bryant, Carole's husband, and his half brother J.W. Milam, abducted Till. They beat him, mutilated him, shot him and threw his body in the Tallahatchie river. His bloated corpse was found three days later.
Mamie Till-Mobley, Till's mother, held a public funeral in Chicago. His body was displayed in an open casket. The event exposed American racism to the world.
In September 1955, Bryant and Milam were acquitted of Till's kidnapping and murder. Protected from being tried again, they admitted to Look Magazine that they had killed Till. Their justification was that they thought young man had whistled at Carole Bryant.
The crime became a symbol of the failure of the justice system and the murderous terror of white supremacy.
Across the country today, the murder of Emmett Till still resonates, one of many crimes, past and present, that can still instill fear and anger. It brought UW student Davon White and community member Calvin Lyons into conversation.
The family involved in the crime is letting the building fall apart, but the memory of that awful crime taints the region. We traveled on to nearby Sumner where the Till murderers were acquitted by all an white jury. The courthouse has been renovated, according to the Emmet Till Commission, to serve as an interpretive site marking the crime and efforts at reconciliation. We also visited the small town of Glendora, where the Mayor has built a museum to the crime, The Emmett Till Historic Intrepid Center. He calls his tour "The Till Trail of Terror." The small museum recreates the era and the crime.
In Sumner, the Emmett Till Interpretive Center is trying to offer a space for reconciliation.
But the truth has to be acknowledged before any reconciliation can take place and according to Patrick Weems who directs the center and Glendora Mayor Johnny B.Thomas, many people in the region do not want to deal with truth of their past.
The murderers were never brought to justice. They both died of cancer. In 2004 the Justice Department reopened the case. It was acting on information that people still living were implicated. In 2007, a grand jury declined to seek any indictments.