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Emmett Till Sign Vandalized Again

This marker in Money, Miss., remembering black teenager Emmett Till, who was kidnapped and killed in 1955, has been vandalized more than once, most recently this month.
Allan Hammons

An Emmett Till historical marker in Money, Miss., has been vandalized two times in as many months, most recently last week, when panels with the 14-year-old's image and his story were peeled off.

Installed in 2011, the sign stands on the Mississippi Freedom Trail, which commemorates people, places and events that played a part in the civil rights movement.

Allan Hammons, whose firm made the marker and manages the Trail, told The Associated Press that in addition to the panels being peeled off last week, somebody used a blunt tool to scratch the sign last month.

The sign marks the spot outside Bryant's Grocery Store, where in 1955, Till did something any kid could relate to: He bought candy. The white shopkeeper accused him of flirting and told her husband.

Till was killed after a white woman falsely said he aggressively flirted with her.
/ AP
Till was killed after a white woman falsely said he aggressively flirted with her.

A few days later, Till — an African-American — was kidnapped, tortured and killed, his body dumped in a river.

Till's mother, refusing to cover up the horror of what happened, insisted on an open casket at her son's funeral.

Earlier this year, the woman at the center of the allegations admitted the story she told about Till was made up, according to the author of a new book.

In The Blood of Emmett Till, Carolyn Donham tells author Timothy B. Tyson that she gave testimony about Till grabbing her around the waist and using obscenities, "but that part is not true."

Donham had testified in the 1955 murder trial of her then-husband, Roy Bryant, and brother-in-law J.W. Milam. They were acquitted by an all-white jury.

The next year, the two men gave a detailed confession about killing Till in an article for Look magazine.

More than six decades later, the vandalism of the grocery store sign is not unique; a number of civil rights markers have been vandalized in Mississippi in recent years, reports The Clarion-Ledger.

"KKK" was scrawled on an Emmett Till Memorial Highway sign in 2006. And in October, the marker at the Tallahatchie River where Till's body was found was riddled with bullet holes.

"These are easy targets, a low-risk outlet for racism," Dave Tell, who works on the Emmett Till Memory Project, told the newspaper.

Hammons told the AP, he doesn't know whether the latest defacement of the Till sign is racially motivated or just random vandalism.

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Amy Held is an editor on the newscast unit. She regularly reports breaking news on air and online.
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