WASHINGTON — Congress should give the nation’s highest civilian honor posthumously to Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, a Republican and a Democratic senator said Wednesday.
Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., said the Congressional Gold Medal is long overdue for the Till family.
Till was a black teenager lynched in Mississippi in 1955 by white men who were later acquitted despite eyewitness testimony tying them to the killing. He had been accused of whistling at a white woman.
Mamie Till-Mobley demanded an open-casket funeral for her son in Chicago. A photograph of Till’s brutalized body galvanized the Civil Rights movement. She remained a Civil Rights activist in honor of her slain son for the rest of her life.
“That legacy is still felt today and honoring it is more important than ever,” Burr said in a statement announcing the bill introduction.
“While his lynching and the impunity that followed was unique in its horror, it revealed the persistent legacy of racialized terror and violence waged against Black Americans and reflected the stain of racism and bigotry that this nation continues to struggle with today,” Booker said.
Till-Mobley created the Emmett Till Players, where teenagers traveled throughout the country presenting the speeches of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. She also was one of the founders of the Emmett Till Justice Campaign, which pushed for the re-investigation of Till’s murder.
President George W. Bush signed the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act, which allows cold civil rights cases to be reopened, into law in 2008.
The Commission on Chicago Landmarks granted preliminary landmark status this month to Emmett Till’s childhood home, in Chicago’s Woodlawn community.
Contributing: Maudlyne Ihejirika