Capitol Hill lawmakers have officially recognized the contribution to civil rights of a courageous Black mother who publicly condemned white supremacy in the face of her personal tragedy.
In a unanimous vote, the House passed a bill Wednesday (Dec. 21) to posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, the Associated Press reports.
In January, the Senate passed its version of the bill to honor the mother and son with the highest civilian honor that Congress awards.
In 1955, Emmett, a 14-year-old Black boy from Chicago, was visiting relatives in Mississippi. The then-Carolyn Bryant, a white woman, accused Emmett of whistling and making sexual advances toward her. That accusation prompted her then-husband, Roy Bryant and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, to abduct, torture and murder him. The teen’s body was weighted down and thrown into the Tallahatchie River.
An all-white jury acquitted the men of murder charges, but they later confessed to the slaying in a Look magazine interview when the double jeopardy rule protected them from a retrial.
Till-Mobley, who died in 2003, insisted on an open casket so the world could see her son’s brutalized body. Jet magazine famously published the photos. It sparked outrage and galvanized the civil rights movement.
“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,” Sen. Cory Booker, who introduced the bill in 2020, stated after it passed in the Senate.
The National Museum of African American History will receive the medal and display it near Till’s casket.
Congress began awarding the Congressional Gold medals since the American Revolution, according to the House Office of History, Art & Archives. The list of recipients include Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, and the Little Rock Nine, the nine Black teenagers who, in 1957, were the first to integrate all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Ark.
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