Writer’s note: History is a series of true stories and those stories can be life changing in awakening one’s mind and heart for the betterment of mankind.
And so it was on my recent visit to Tallahassee, Florida to visit my oldest daughter, Kelli, that I had the unique experience to hear the program, Life After Emmett Till’s Murder, narrated by Keith Beauchamp, a New York film producer. Keith directed and produced the 2004 documentary, The Untold Story of Emmett Till. It is now available on YouTube. Taking part in the interview were two children of Moses Wright, Thelma Edwards and Willie Wright. The program took place at Florida State University, which houses all the archive materials from the Emmett Till murder.
In August 1955, Emmett Till, 14 years old Black youth, went south from Chicago to visit family in Mississippi. Emmett stayed at the home of Moses and Elizabeth Wright. In the early morning hours of August 28th, several White men came to the Wright farmhouse. They wanted the boy from Chicago, “Who’d done the talking” in Money, Mississippi several days earlier. Despite the Wrights’ best efforts, half brothers J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant left with the terrified child. The family never saw Emmett alive again. His beaten body was discovered three days later floating in the Tallahatchie River.
Both Willie and Thelma are much older now. At the time of the murder of their cousin, Willie was 18 and Thelma was 24. Willie was just entering basic training in the army and Thelma was attending a church service in Chicago. Even though justice has never been served in the murder, both Willie and Thelma are at peace that Carolyn Bryant, shop keeper where the incident occurred, has finally come forward and acknowledged that she lied and told a false story abut what really took place between her and Emmett. (The recently published book, The Blood of Emmett Till, by Timothy Tyson, explains this confession in detail.) The case regarding Emmett Till had been reopened to see if possibly Carolyn Bryant could still be indicted in the case. However, as of this writing no indictment has been declared. The all white male jury took less than an hour to acquit both J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant. Four months later, they both confessed to the murder in a Look Magazine article in which they were paid $4000.
The story of Emmett Till and of Rosa Parks are two of the events that ignited the civil rights movement. No one should be separated from knowing these stories. Because knowing these stories can help unite all of us.
– Jim Herm, Anti-Racism Task Force
Note: The photo is a picture of the Emmett Till program participants. Far left: Keith Beauchamp, narrator. Middle: Willie Wright. Far right: Thelma Edwards. The lady standing was responsible for the archive materials viewed at the program.