Emmett Till’s casket donated to Smithsonian

Emmett Till and his mother, Friday was the 54th anniversary of Emmett Till’s lynching. To mark the occasion, his family announced the donation of his original casket to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Chicago native Emmett Till was just 14 years old when he was beaten, tortured and shot in the head for allegedly whistling/flirting/touching the hand or waist of a white woman (the witnesses’ stories are inconsistent on what actually happened) while visiting his uncle in Money, Mississippi. The case drew national attention and is considered a seminal event of the Civil Rights era.

The picture seen 'round the world of Emmett Till's open casket His casket played a pivotal role in this history, as his mother, Mamie Till Bradley, insisted against all kinds of pressure from Mississippi authorities that it be open for viewing and photographing. “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby,” she has famously said, and she got her way.

A picture of the mutilated boy published in Jet magazine went around the world, publicizing the horrors of the Jim Crow South and galvanizing the fledgling Civil Rights Movement.

His murderers, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam (the husband of the white woman in question and his half-brother), were acquitted in minutes by a jury of all white men, despite Till’s uncle’s testimony that they had dragged him out of the house and other witnesses who saw them with Till and heard Emmett’s cries shortly thereafter. The killers even admitted it in Look Magazine once the trial was over and died entirely unrepentant.

He was buried in Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois, and then exhumed in 2005 when the case was reopened in hopes of confirming other participants in the crime. As is customary with exhumations, Emmett’s body was reburied in a new casket. The original one was supposed to be preserved for a memorial museum, but instead it was tossed into a shed by the incredibly creepy cemetery manager who seems to also have embezzled the memorial donations.

That manager and several gravediggers made the news recently for having dug up hundreds of bodies, dumped them and resold the plots. Emmett’s body seems to have been spared, but his casket was not. It was found rusting in a garage full of broken headstones, lawn care equipment and assorted trash. There was apparently a family of possums living in the casket.

Till's casket in the garage Till's casket in the garage, detail

Now the casket, its glass viewing window still intact, is safe in the hands of the Rayner and Sons mortuary, the same funeral home which first prepared Emmett’s body for burial. They will send it to the Smithsonian’s Museum Support Center for restoration and conservation until it can be displayed in the new National Museum of African American History and Culture when it opens in 2015.

51 thoughts on “Emmett Till’s casket donated to Smithsonian

  1. It Really Hurts Meh To See Wht This Poor Boy Went Throo. I Mean Really ?? Who In There Rite Mind Wudd Sit There And Think “Imma Have This Nigger Killed For Whistling At Meh” ???? Personally I Don’t Get Why It’s Such A Strong Hate For One Race. I’m Black But I Don Hate White Ppl… But I Do Hate Those Who Killed Emmitt Because He Was Black. Then They Had No Remorse For Killen Him. A Beautifull Black Womans Son Was Killed Juss For Bein Black. It’s Really Sad How This 14 Yr Old Died Of Hatred And Been Beaten Really Badly. Every Time I Look At His Face I Want To Cry Over And Over.. And It’s Not Cause He’s Ugly.. Cause He’s Not…. But Because Some White Ppl Wanna Be Ignorant.. And I’m Juss Bein Real R.I.P. Emmitt

  2. that is some bullshit why in the hell is the casket in the cemetery JUSTICE FOR EMMIT MUTHAFUCKAS AYEEE!!!!!!1

  3. You hate all white people for this? Doesn’t that seem a bit racist you idiot? I’m sure if I were to say that I hate all blacks for the countless racial murders that they were involved where they killed specifically whites, you would think that’s racist, although that’s a fact. I am sick and tired of people like you who constantly talk about how there is still racism towards blacks when you are the reasons for it. The way YOU PEOPLE act is the reason there is still racism.

    1. First of all God made everyone. All different things on this earth. After January 6th I dint think you should talk about the way black people act. That was the most ignorant things I have ever seen and that was white people. So watch what u say about how someone act.

  4. You’re an ignorant fool. Yes, it is racist and ignorant for anyone to say “I hate all white people because blahblahblah.” That part is correct.

    However, you are not only a fool, but a hypocrite to boot, to say the same things about blacks:

    “I’m sure if I were to say that I hate all blacks for the countless racial murders that they were involved where they killed specifically whites, you would think that’s racist, although that’s a fact.”

    Go jump off a bridge.

  5. man im sorry to say this but I hate white people now and now when ever I play in my basketball games I am going to make them look so bad. :angry: but at the same time I kinda hate all white people from back then not now a days cause you cant be mad at everyone

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