02.25.21

Sens. Burr, Booker Introduce Legislation to Posthumously Award Congressional Gold Medal to Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley

Today, Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) reintroduced legislation for the 117th Congress to posthumously award Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor. The Senators first introduced the bill in September 2020.

“Sixty-five years after his horrific murder and the acquittal of his killers, Emmett Till’s life and legacy continues to reverberate throughout this country,” said Senator Burr. “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 left on America’s Civil Rights movement. I am proud to work with Senator Booker on this important effort as we celebrate Black History Month.”

“The lynching of Emmett Till and the impunity that followed was wrenching in its horror, and revealed the persistence of racialized terror and violence waged against Black Americans across the United States,” said Senator Booker. “The courage his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, displayed in allowing the world to witness the unspeakable violence her son endured forced our nation to confront its collective failure to address the evils of racism and white supremacy. The Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor Congress can bestow, is a long-overdue recognition of Emmett and Mamie Till-Mobley’s legacy.”

Background:

In 1955, Emmett Till was kidnapped, beaten, and brutally murdered in Money, Mississippi while visiting his uncle, Moses Wright. Till’s murderers were acquitted despite Wright providing an eyewitness testimony that the men on trial kidnapped Till.

Following Till’s death, his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, brought his body back to Chicago and demanded an open casket funeral with more than 50,000 attendees. Till-Mobley allowed a photograph to be taken of Till in his casket, which galvanized activists who were working for civil rights.

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. Additionally, Till-Mobley was the co-founder of the Emmett Till Justice Campaign, which significantly impacted our justice system through 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 Rep. John Lewis, led efforts in the Senate 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.