Posted on October 26, 2022

Mississippi Unveils Emmett Till Statue

Emily Wagster Pettus, Associated Press, October 21, 2022

Hundreds of people applauded — and some wiped away tears — as a Mississippi community unveiled a larger-than-life statue of Emmett Till on Friday, not far from where white men kidnapped and killed the Black teenager over accusations he had flirted with a white woman in a country store.

“Change has come, and it will continue to happen,” Madison Harper, a senior at Leflore County High School, told a racially diverse audience at the statue’s dedication. “Decades ago, our parents and grandparents could not envision that a moment like today would transpire.”

The 1955 lynching became a catalyst for the civil rights movement. Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, insisted on an open-casket funeral in Chicago so the world could see the horrors inflicted on her 14-year-old son. Jet magazine published photos of his mutilated body, which was pulled from the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi.

The 9-foot (2.7-meter) tall bronze statue in Greenwood’s Rail Spike Park is a jaunty depiction of the living Till in slacks, dress shirt and tie with one hand on the brim of a hat.

The rhythm and blues song, “Wake Up, Everybody” played as workers pulled a tarp off the figure. Dozens of people surged forward, shooting photos and video on cellphones.

Anna-Maria Webster of Rochester, New York, had tears running down her face.

“It’s beautiful to be here,” said Webster, attending the ceremony on a sunny afternoon during a visit with Mississippi relatives. Speaking of Till’s mother she said: “Just to imagine the torment she went through — all over a lie.”

Mississippi has the highest percentage of Black residents of any state, now about 38%. Democratic U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, whose district encompasses the Delta, noted that Mississippi had no Black elected officials when Till was killed. He said Till’s death helped spur change.

“But you, know, change has a way of becoming slower and slower,” said Thompson, the only Black member of Mississippi’s current congressional delegation. “What we have to do in dedicating this monument to Emmett Till is recommit ourselves to the spirit of making a difference in our community.”

The statue is a short drive from an elaborate Confederate monument outside the Leflore County Courthouse and about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the crumbling remains of the store, Bryant’s Grocery & Meat Market, in Money.

The statue’s unveiling coincided with the release this month of “Till,” a movie exploring Till-Mobley’s private trauma over her son’s death and her transformation into a civil rights activist.

The Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., the last living witness to his cousin’s kidnapping, wasn’t able to travel from Illinois for Friday’s dedication. But he told The Associated Press on Wednesday: “We just thank God someone is keeping his name out there.”


Greenwood and Leflore County are both more than 70% Black and officials have worked for years to bring the Till statue to reality. Democratic state Sen. David Jordan of Greenwood secured $150,000 in state funding and a Utah artist, Matt Glenn, was commissioned to create the statue.