Photo credits: The Family of Emmett Till
The United States Senate has approved a measure to posthumously give the Congressional Gold Medal to Emmett Till, the Chicago boy slain in the 1950s by white supremacists, and to his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, who insisted on an open casket burial to emphasize the horror of her son’s death.
Till was kidnapped, tortured, and murdered by witnesses he allegedly whistled at a white lady at a rural Mississippi grocery store, a breach of the South’s racist cultural rules at the time. In exchange, he was roused from his bed and stolen four days later from the house of a great-uncle.
After Till’s mother insisted on an open coffin and Jet magazine published photographs of his brutalized corpse, the death inflamed the civil rights movement.
U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) proposed the measure to bestow the highest civilian honor Congress bestows to Till and his mother. They characterized the measure as a long-overdue acknowledgment of the Till family’s ordeal and accomplishments in their struggle against injustice.
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Illinois, is the sponsor of the United States House version of the measure. Additionally, he has supported legislation for the issuance of a commemorative postage stamp in honor of Mamie Till-Mobley.