Emmett Till’s New Bulletproof Memorial is the Epitome of Resilience

Emmett Till's Memorial

This past weekend, a brand new and improved bulletproof memorial was unveiled for Emmett Till and his family on the banks of the Tallahatchie River, just over a decade after the original one was erected and more than 60 years after his body was recovered. Remembering the life of Till with a memorial is one way for us to honor his short life and observe his familys great loss. Lynched in 1955 in Mississippi, the tragic death of Till, a black teenager from Chicago who was in town visiting family, brought the long-standing issue of civil rights to a point where the country had little choice but to start an extraordinary, national movement for racial equality, jump-starting the Civil Rights Movement.

The new memorial is the fourth iteration of the Emmett Till monument. The last one had been erected to replace the second monument, which had been vandalized with bullets — and itself only lasted another 35 days before being shot up too. The original monument, dedicated in 2008, was flat out uprooted and never found. Its clear that just as the monument reminds many of us of the blatant inequities and acts of injustice that continue to deteriorate our country, Emmett Tills story also strikes a nerve with white supremacists and their sympathizers. I think we just have to be resilient and know there are folks out there that don’t want to know this history or who want to erase the history,” Patrick Weems, the executive director of the Emmett Till Memorial Commission, told NBC News. We are just going to be resilient in continuing to put them back up and be truthful in making make sure that Emmett didn’t die in vain.”

Emmett Till vandalized

The bulletproof monument, with glass nearly an inch thick, was designed to ensure that Till’s story will be preserved for posterity. Till was only 14 years old when he was killed by two white men for supposedly sexually accosting a white woman; his accuser only recently admitted that he hadn’t done any such thing. Tills murderers had no interest in giving him the benefit of the doubt, kidnapping and brutalizing him before leaving his body in a river. They were acquitted of all charges in a court of law by a white jury.

Airicka Gordon-Taylor, who accompanied her mother Ollie to the ceremony on Saturday told the New York Times that though there will never be justice for Till and his family from a court of law — her mother Ollie was 7 years old at the time, living under the same roof as Emmett, and needless to say was deeply affected by his death — the family is committed to carrying on his legacy for themselves as well as the countless other lives who have been touched by hatred, bigotry, and violence. Youre never going to forget about Emmett Till and that he was here,” she insisted, explaining that the signs would continue to be replaced just as often as they get destroyed. Our family has never received judicial justice from the state of Mississippi for Emmetts murder, so, in some form, this is us saying, Until you do right by us, basically, youre never going to forget.