The federal government has reopened the murder case of Emmett Till, a black teen whose grisly murder in Mississippi more than 60 years ago after being accused of grabbing a white woman shocked the nation and helped prompt the civil rights movement.
The Justice Department, in a report to Congress in March, said it was reopening the investigation into the 1955 murder due to “new information” it did not detail, the Associated Press reports.
Till was 14 years old when Carolyn Donham, a 21-year-old shopkeeper in the town of Money, said the youth grabbed and whistled at her. Three days later, the battered body of Till, nicknamed “Bobo,” was found in the Tallahatchie River.
Till’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, requested her son’s casket be left open for the funeral so the public could see how badly he had been beaten. More than 100,000 African-Americans paid their respects.
“In memory of #EmmettTill and thousands of other black men, women & children lynched, we must finally pass anti-lynching law,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson tweeted Thursday.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Donham’s then-husband, Roy Bryant, and his brother J.W. Milam were charged with murder but acquitted a few weeks later. Look magazine later published an account of the killing they said they obtained from Bryant and Milam. In the article, the men admit beating Till and tossing him in the river, weighed down with a 74-pound cotton gin fan.
Bryant died in 1994. The federal government reopened the case in 2004 but closed it in 2007 with no further charges being filed.
But Till’s death made news again last year with publication of “The Blood of Emmett Till.” The book, written by Timothy B. Tyson, quotes Donham admitting in 2008 that she wasn’t telling the truth when she made the claims. Donham, now 84, lives in North Carolina.
Simeon Wright, who said he was an eyewitness to Till’s abduction, died in September. He said he was present when Till wolf-whistled at Bryant’s wife at the store.
Wright, in his book “Simeon’s Story,” says that days later, on Aug. 28, 1955, Wright and Till were sleeping when Milam and Bryant entered with guns. He said his mother begged the men not to take Till, even offering them money.
“They had come for Bobo,” Wright wrote. “No begging, pleading or payment was going to stop them.”
The men took Till away, and Wright never saw him again.
“I must have stayed in the bed for hours, petrified,” Wright wrote.
John Bacon, USA TODAY