This 1955 photo shows Emmett Till in Chicago, about six months before he was killed. (Family Photo)

This Day in History: August 28th

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On August 28, 1955, Emmett Till was kidnapped from the home of his great-uncle after Carolyn Bryant accused the 14-year-old of taunting her in her family’s grocery store. Bryant’s husband, Roy and his brother, J.W. Milam, who were armed, snatched Till, who was sent from Chicago by his mother to spend the summer with his relatives, from his bed in the wee hours of the morning.

They took Till to a barn and tortured and beat him for three days. They gouged out his eyes, shot him in the head and threw Till’s body into the Tallahatchie River with a 75-pound cotton-gin fan with barbed wire wrapped around his body.

Moses Wright, Till’s great-uncle, reported the kidnapping to the police. Roy Bryant and Milam were arrested the following day. On August 31, 1955, Till’s corpse was discovered in the river.

“Let the people see what I’ve seen,” said Mamie Till to the funeral director when she had to identify her son’s body.

She brought him home to Chicago and insisted on having an open-casket funeral. Thousands of people attended Till’s funeral. However, it was the publication of the gruesome image taken by David Jackson that forced Americans to confront the brutality of racism in the country.

The image was first published in Jet Magazine and displayed a stoic Mamie Till gazing over her child’s body.

Bryant and Milam tried to maintain their innocence after the murder. With the help of the NAACP Mississippi field secretary, Medgar Evers, and other black activists, the prosecution produced compelling evidence. But Bryant and Miliam were acquitted of Till’s murder by an all-white, all-male jury.

The two men, who sold their story to Look Magazine for $4,000, bragged about the murder, which they saw as a form of Southern justice implemented to protect white womanhood.

Carolyn Bryant, the accuser, broke her silence and confessed to Duke University research scholar, Timothy Tyson, that her claims against Till was a lie. The Blood of Emmett Till by Tyson reveals that Carolyn Bryant (in 2007, at age 72) confessed that she had fabricated her testimony.

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