Bettmann / Getty Images(GLENDORA, Miss.) — Bullet-Riddled Memorial to Emmett Till Prompts Talk of Still ‘So Much Hatred’ Vandals in Mississippi apparently shot up a memorial to Emmett Till, an African-American teen whose murder in 1955 became a touchstone of the civil rights movement.
The defacing of the memorial drew notice Oct. 15, when Facebook user Kevin Wilson Jr. posted an image of the damage to the marker of the site where the 14-year-old Till, accused of whistling at a white woman, was killed.
“I’m at the exact site where Emmett Till’s body was found floating in the Tallahatchie River 61 years ago. The site marker is filled with bullet holes. Clear evidence that we’ve still got a long way to go,” Wilson wrote in the post.
Till was a kid from Chicago visiting relatives in Mississippi when his body was found with a bullet hole in his head, barbed wire wrapped around his neck and a cotton gin fan weighing him down. His mutilated body was sent home to Chicago where his mother, Mamie Till Mobley insisted on an open-casket funeral. The shocking image of her son’s body heightened calls for racial justice and civil rights.
The vandalism of the memorial prompted some African-American leaders in Tallahatchie County to consider that work toward racial tolerance isn’t done.
“This child died in 1955 and people still have so much hatred,” Robert E. Huddleston, a state representative from the area and member of the local chapter of the NAACP, told ABC News. “Why do they feel the need to keep on killing him again and again?”
Huddleston said this is the second time this particular memorial had been defaced and that the original version of the marker is believed to have been dumped into the river.
He and Johnny B. Thomas, the African-American mayor of Glendora, Mississippi, said they will work to make sure the memorial is rebuilt.
“When I see hatred like this it makes me want to work that much harder to rebuild it, begin healing, and get members of the Caucasian community to join us in that effort to heal,” Thomas told ABC News. “When the descendants of those who perpetrated slavery here and Jim Crow laws stand up against this sort of vandalism it means so much more … When they join in rejecting this we can move forward.”
ABC News reached out to the Tallahatchie County Sheriff’s Office for information about any investigation into the vandalism but did not immediately receive a response.
Thomas, whose black father may have had some connection to some connection Till’s death and who is involved with tours of spots associated with the murder, said there is a long record of racial tension in the area and that those with family ties to the history of strife could help to promote healing.
Thomas said that people could donate toward Till memorials by contacting the Village of Glendora, Mississippi.
The Emmett Till Memorial Commission put up eight markers in Tallahatchie County in 2008, according to The Clarion Ledger, who noted that the sign near the river where Till’s was found has been a repeated target of vandals, along with other prominent civil rights markers in the region.
The paper noted that a sign marking the Emmett Till Memorial Highway, dedicated to him in 2006, was spray-painted with the letters “KKK.”
Huddleston said such memorials are important to mark the battle for civil rights, regardless of who may oppose them.
“What we are doing now is trying to raise money to replace the sign,” Huddleston said.
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