May 23, 2024

Emmett and Mamie Till to receive posthumous Congressional Gold Medal

Written By Kevin Fobbs | Jan 16, 2022 | Courtesy of CommDigiNews

Emmett-Till and his Mother Maxine Christmas, 1954 Credit – New York Historical Society

Nearly 70 years ago, a mother, gripped with grief, made a decision that forever changed the landscape of American society. Mamie Till-Mobley tearfully decided to show the nation an open coffin view of her bruised, battered, and lynched son Emmett Till. Those horrific photos outraged the nation and galvanized the American modern civil rights movement.

It is essential to understand why the Congressional Gold Medal for Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, was approved by the U.S. Senate in January 2022.

Without an Emmett Till, there may never have been a Rev. Martin Luther King.

Eight years before Rev. Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, Emmett Till was murdered. (History). In the America of 1955, the nation was still in the tyranny of “legalized” racial intimidation, separation, cancelation, and elimination.

The Supreme Court’s 1955 landmark decision to overturn the racist “Separate but Equal” was largely ignored on the last day of Emmitt Till’s life. 

Mamie Till-Mobley sent her son to his relatives in Mississippi. It would be the year where Rosa Parks would refuse to give up her bus seat. It would also be the year where a 26-year-old pastor, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., would head up the historic December 5, 1955, to December 20, 1956, Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott.

Unfortunately, on August 28, Emmett would have his life, liberty, and happiness robbed with a vicious lie spoken by Carolyn Bryant Donham, a white woman. According to the New York Times, Donham confessed decades later to Timothy B. Tyson, a Duke University professor, the claims she made about Emmett Till, which led to his brutal lynching and death, “were false.” (The Story Of Carolyn Bryant, The White Woman Whose Lie Caused The Murder Of Emmett Till)

The lies of Bryant, and thousands like her, lead to the “documented racial terror lynching murders of 4075 African Americans in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia between 1877 and 1950,” according to Equal Justice Initiative researchers.

It is that national cancer that Rev. King chillingly referred to in his 1963 “I Have a Dream speech,

“But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. And so, we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense, we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check.”

The Congressional Gold Medal is the essence of Emmett and his mother’s life.

Our congressional leaders on Capitol Hill finally admitting to the unspeakable horror suffered by the 14-year-old. The fear and pain as hours became minutes and then moments until his death? Is the Congressional Gold Medal a symbol of what Mamie Till-Mobley may have felt as she intuitively anguished? Sensing, from miles away, her child’s life ebbing away? Knowing her boy’s death would open eyes to racial injustice murder.

Recently, Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., introduced the severely long overdue bill to honor Emmett Till and his mother with the highest civilian honor Congress awards. According to the Chicago Tribune,

“They described the legislation as recognition of what the Till family endured and what they accomplished in their fight against injustice. The House version of the legislation is sponsored by Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill.  He also has sponsored a bill to issue a commemorative postage stamp in honor of Mamie Till-Mobley.”

According to the Library of Congress,

“Congress has awarded gold medals to express public gratitude for distinguished contributions, dramatize the virtues of patriotism, and perpetuate the remembrance of great events.”

The Continental Congress concluded there was no better way to honor “and preserve the memory of illustrious characters and splendid events than medals.”

Emmett Till’s 1955 death, like Crispus Attucks in 1770, is notable. According to the PBS:

“Crispus Attucks, a black man, became the first casualty of the American Revolution when he was shot and killed in what became known as the Boston Massacre.”

Crispus Attucks’ was the first to die for our freedom. One hundred eighty-five years later, a new revolution reminds America of the freedoms that God bestowed in its creation.Crispus Attucks, Emmitt Till, Social Justice, Mamie Till

A 19th-century lithograph variation of Paul Revere’s famous engraving of the Boston Massacre. Produced before the American Civil War, this image emphasized Crispus Attucks in the center. He became an important symbol to abolitionists of sacrifice and black freedom. By John Bufford after William L. Champey, circa 1856)[4]The Price of Freedom Runs through the veins of the Tills, Attucks, and Rev. King.

For Attucks, Till and Mamie, history has inextricably bound their life and deaths together with the defining characteristics of what a Congressional Gold Medal represent. Their deaths are “distinguished contributions that dramatize the virtues of patriotism.”

Attucks has not been awarded a Congressional Gold Medal. However, he has been recognized by the US Mint.

In 1998, the Black Revolutionary War Patriots Commemorative Silver Dollar featured Crispus Attucks. The reverse coin is the new Black Patriots Memorial built on the National Mall.

Emmett Till’s death paid for a revolution to recapture freedom’s guarantee.

Mamie Till-Mobley knew the price of freedom as well. She paid for her son’s life. Determined that the horrific truth of what happened to her child be told, she held an open coffin funeral.

According to New York History,

Mamie had one thought “Let the people see what they did to my boy.”

Mamie Till stared down into the coffin:

 “Emmett’s body, which had been shot and beaten almost beyond recognition.”

Over 100,000 men, women, and children viewed the open casket of Emmett Till. 

In 1963, on Mother’s Day, Rev. King spoke at an Atlanta church about the death of Emmett Till, giving rise to the civil rights movement.

Dr. King talked about “the evil of racial injustice” and evoked “the crying voice of a little Emmett C. Till, screaming from the rushing waters in Mississippi” in the 1963 Mother’s Day sermon.”

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.   have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right down in Alabama, little Black boys and Black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.   have a dream today.” Rev. King, I Have a Dream


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About the author:

Kevin Fobbs began writing professionally in 1975. e has been published in the “New York Times” and has written for the “Detroit News,” “Michigan Chronicle,” “GOPUSA,” “Soul Source,” and “Writers Digest” magazines. n addition to the Ann Arbor and Cleveland “Examiner,” “Free Patriot,” “Conservatives4 Palin,” and “Positively Republican.” The former daily host of The Kevin Fobbs Show on conservative News Talk WDTK – 1400 AM in Detroit is also a published author. In addition, his Christian children’s book, “Is There a Lion in My Kitchen,” hit bookstores in 2014.