Posted on August 28, 2009

Smithsonian’s African-American Museum to Display Emmett Till Casket

William Lee, Chicago Tribune, August 27, 2009

The casket that held the mutilated body of civil rights martyr Emmett Till for 50 years will go on public display in the nation’s newest African-American history museum, officials said.

The move comes a month after the casket was found discarded at Burr Oak Cemetery near Alsip.

Officials with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture are expected to announce the casket’s donation just before a memorial ceremony Friday to commemorate 54 years since Till’s murder.


“We are both honored and humbled that the Till family has entrusted this sacred object to the museum for preservation and safekeeping,” Bunch, former president of the Chicago History Museum, said in a news release.


The casket will be taken to Washington, the site of the new museum, where it will be evaluated by conservation experts and readied for display when the museum opens in late 2015, spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas said.

Till’s body was originally buried in the casket with a glass top at his mother’s request so that the public could see her son’s badly-disfigured corpse. It was exhumed and autopsied in 2005 in an FBI probe to find possible accomplices in the crime.

After Till’s body was reburied in a new casket, his relatives had hoped to have the original casket donated to a black history museum, but it was discovered rusting in a damp shed at Burr Oak in July during the uncovering of an alleged grave-reselling scam.