Vandals shot up a sign in northern Mississippi memorializing Emmett Till, a black teenager whose lynching in 1955 was a catalyst for the modern civil rights movement.
The historical site marks the area where Till’s body was recovered from the Tallahatchie River three days after he was murdered. At least four bullet holes pierced the marker on July 26, just 35 days after the sign was replaced a second time.
In 2007 the Emmett Till Memorial Commission erected eight markers, including the river sign, around Tallahatchie County to commemorate Till’s death. The first riverside marker was stolen in 2008 and was never recovered. The sign was replaced later that year but was repeatedly vandalized by gunfire until it was taken down in 2016. The third sign was rededicated on June 21 this year.
“We are deeply saddened by this ignorant act,” the Emmett Till Interpretive Center wrote on its website. “But we know acts of hate will lead to acts of generosity and love.”
After the vandalism, the center created a fundraising page to raise money for Till-related initiatives, including the purchase of land to create a memorial park.
The center has not yet decided whether it will replace the marker once again. A signmaker in New York has offered to make a new one, Patrick Weems, a co-founder of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, told HuffPost.
Till was 14 years old when he was kidnapped, beaten, tortured and shot after a white woman accused him of making sexual advances toward her in her husband’s store in Money, Mississippi. Two white men acquitted of his murder later confessed to killing Till, and the woman has recanted her allegations. No one else was ever charged.
The Department of Justice informed Congress this March that it was reopening the case, citing “the discovery of new information.”
Weems said he’s unwilling to let “one lone vandal stop us” from continuing the center’s mission of telling the story of the Till tragedy and leading toward racial healing.
Alvin Sykes, the president of the Emmett Till Justice Campaign, told Mississippi’s Clarion-Ledger that the sign should remain as it is ― bullet holes and all.
“The sign going back up is a sign of progress,” he said. “The bullets are showing how much further we need to go.”