April 25, 2006 – A dilapidated and condemned Mississippi Delta grocery store – a timeworn reminder of the Old South’s ugly past – must be preserved, say several leaders who believe there is value in looking back.
The weather-battered relic in question is the old Bryant Grocery and Meat Market in Money, Miss., where Black teenager Emmett Till was accused of wolf-whistling at a White female shopkeeper on a steamy August day in 1955.
The 14-year-old boy was in town visiting with relatives. Four days after the alleged incident, Emmett was snatched from his uncle’s home in the middle of the night by angry White men and spirited away to a country mill, where he was tortured, mutilated and murdered.
His body was found weighted down with a cotton gin in the Tallahatchie River three days later. A hole had been blown in his right temple; his left eye was missing; his right eye was dangling on his cheek; and most of his teeth were gone. The only way his body could be identified was a ring he was wearing.
Despite the grotesque image of her slain son, his mother decided on an open-casket funeral in Chicago. Thousands filed past the coffin to witness the brutality of Jim Crow, and JET magazine carried Till's photograph. Reports of the lynching helped galvanize a nation around civil rights issues.
The grocery store closed shortly after the killing and has been boarded up ever since. It is now owned by the son of one of the jurors who acquitted two relatives of the woman who was allegedly whistled at. They later confessed to the crime in a paid interview in Look magazine. Both have since died of cancer.
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