Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley will be posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. On Wednesday (Dec. 21), Congress passed the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2021, making way for the teen and his mother to be honored. The legislation is now awaiting President Joe Biden’s signature.
“The brutal lynching of Emmett Till and the subsequent bravery and boldness of his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, became a catalyst for the civil rights movement… The people of the United States honor the legacy of Emmett Till and the incredible suffering and equally incredible courage, resilience and efforts of Mamie Till-Mobley that led to the civil rights movement that began in the 1950s,” read Congress’ response to the bill. The National Museum of African American History will display the esteemed award near the casket Till was buried in.
Till’s 1955 death has been well-documented throughout history. As many know, the 14-year-old was kidnapped from his uncle’s home in Money, Mississippi, and then beaten, shot and his body disposed of in the Tallahatchie River. The heinous acts were committed after a white woman, Carolyn Bryant Donham, accused him of flirting with her. Donham’s husband at the time, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, JW Milam, were charged with the Chicago native’s death but later acquitted. Decades later, in an unpublished memoir, Donham claimed she did not reveal the identity of Till to her former husband or Milam, but there was nothing she could do to protect him.
Till-Mobley famously had her son’s disfigured face photographed by Jet magazine at his funeral. Rep. Bobby L. Rush said her decision made the teen’s death one of the most well-known lynchings in American history. “Without the courage and determination of his mother, Mamie, in keeping his casket open during his funeral, the world would not know what happened to him or the full horrors of white supremacy,” said Rush in a statement.
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