Posted on December 23, 2022

Congress Honors Emmett Till and His Mother With Gold Medal Vote

Christine Chung, New York Times, December 22, 2022

Nearly seven decades after Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black boy, was abducted and killed by white men in Mississippi, Congress has approved a bill that would posthumously award him and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, with its highest civilian honor.

The bill, which would honor Emmett and Ms. Till-Mobley with the Congressional Gold Medal, was passed by voice vote in the House on Wednesday, nearly a year after its unanimous approval in the Senate in January. If the measure is signed into law by President Biden, the medal will be presented to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., where the coffin in which Emmett was originally buried is on display.

Representative Bobby L. Rush, the Illinois Democrat who introduced the bill in the House last year, said that the award was a way to “honor Emmett’s life and his mother Mamie’s contributions to racial justice.”

“The gruesome and unjust murder of Emmett Till serves as one of the most well-known examples of a lynching in American history,” Mr. Rush said in a statement. “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.”


Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, who sponsored the Senate bill, said in a statement that Ms. Till-Mobley, who died in 2003, had “helped awaken the nation’s conscience, forcing America to reckon with its failure to address racism and the glaring injustices that stem from such hatred.”


{snip} In March, Mr. Biden signed a bill named for Emmett that made lynching a federal crime, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. {snip}

The Congressional Gold Medal, awarded since the American Revolution, is Congress’s highest honor for citizens and institutions who have made “distinguished achievements and contributions,” according to the House of Representatives. Recipients include the aviator Charles Lindbergh, the American Red Cross and the Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel.