Today, on what would have been Emmett Till’s 81st birthday, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) released the following statement honoring his legacy and urging passage of bipartisan legislation he’s introduced to posthumously award Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, the Congressional Gold Medal:
“Emmett Till’s horrific murder and the unjust acquittal of his killers shocked the nation and made plain the evils of racism. He was just a boy when he was killed, but, had he lived, Emmett would be 81 years old today and very possibly still with us. It is only right that we posthumously award the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, to Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, in recognition of the grave injustices they faced and the indelible impact they had on American civil rights. I’m glad the Senate has already passed legislation I’ve introduced to do so. It is my hope that the House will do the same and take up this bill soon.”
In 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was kidnapped, beaten, and brutally murdered in Mississippi while visiting his uncle, Moses Wright. His murderers were acquitted despite Wright providing an eyewitness testimony of the kidnapping. The men later admitted to torturing and killing Till, selling the story for $4,000.
Following Till’s death, his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, brought his body back to Chicago and demanded an open casket funeral, where 50,000 attendees viewed his body. Till-Mobley allowed a photograph to be taken of Till in his casket, rousing civil rights activists and bringing national attention to the movement.
Till-Mobley continued her work for justice in honor of her son. She created the Emmett Till Players, where teenagers traveled throughout the country presenting Martin Luther King, Jr. speeches. Till-Mobley was also the co-founder of the Emmett Till Justice Campaign, which significantly impacted our justice system by pushing for the re-investigation of Till’s murder by the State of Mississippi, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Justice in 2004, and by working to pass the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007 to ensure the Justice Department and FBI investigate civil rights era cold cases.
In 2016, Senator Burr, along with the late Representative John Lewis (D-GA), led efforts to pass the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act of 2016, which was signed into law by President Obama on December 19, 2016.
On January 10, 2022, the Senate passed legislation introduced by Senators Burr and Cory Booker (D-NJ) that would posthumously award Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley the Congressional Gold Medal. The bill was sent to the House on the following day, where it remains.