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A First-Hand Account of Events Leading to the Murder of Emmett Till

Deborah Bayliss | 2/12/2014, 10:44 a.m.
The story of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old African American youth from Chicago who was murdered Aug. 1955 while visiting with ...
Emmett Till

Simeon Wright seen here with a picture of his book tittled Simeon's Story: An Eyewitness Acount of the Kinapping of Emmett Till.

Simeon Wright seen here with a picture of his book tittled Simeon's Story: An Eyewitness Acount of the Kinapping of Emmett Till.

The story of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old African American youth from Chicago who was murdered Aug. 1955 while visiting with relatives in Money, Miss., is one that for years haunted his family and the entire African American community and, some would say, helped galvanize the Civil Rights Movement.

Over the years, however, Till’s cousin, Simeon Wright said inaccurate accounts and information related by various individuals as to what occurred Aug. 24, 1955, the day Till entered the Bryant Grocery & Meat Market in Money, Miss., now exist as factual references in the annals of history.

Titled “Simeon’s Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till,” a compelling read, edited by author Herb Boyd, was written to dispel and correct the inaccuracies about what happened leading up to the day of, Aug. 28 at approximately 2:30 a.m. when Till was taken by two white men from the four-bedroom house where Wright and his family resided on Dark Fear Road and what occurred after Till’s murder.

When asked how his family coped with such a huge tragedy immediately following and the years after what Till’s murder, Wright, who was 13 years old at the time and shared a bed with Till, said “There was of course tremendous sadness and grief. When tragedy strikes, life goes on but not like before. I had never witnessed anything like this. My eyes had been opened to a new world. The greatest weight was when he was missing and we didn’t know where he was.”

In his book, Wright, recounts how the two white men Roy Bryant, husband of Carolyn Bryant—the woman at whom, Till whistled that day--and J. W. Milam, Bryant’s half-brother took Till from the home that early morning telling him to ‘get up and put his clothes on.’

Wrights’ account paints with chilling details--a picture of the terrible thing that happened to a young black boy is Mississippi.

Till arrived in Mississippi on Saturday, Aug. 20 happy and ready for whatever the Mississippi town had to offer in the way of fun.

“He was quite big for a 14-year-old. He must have weighed about 140 pounds and was a little over 5’6… I weighed about 90 pounds and was just 5’ tall,” Wright points out in his book.

Author and cousin to Emmett Till, Simeon Wright, as a young boy sitting on the lap of his father, Moses Wright in 1955

Author and cousin to Emmett Till, Simeon Wright, as a young boy sitting on the lap of his father, Moses Wright in 1955

According to Wright, on Wednesday, Aug. 24, there was no change in their established daily routine where Till stayed home from the cotton fields because he could not endure the hot Mississippi sun while the rest of the boys headed for the cotton patch.

“When we returned from another hard day in the field, Bobo again was jubilant…With the day behind us and dusk settling in, we all sat down to a scrumptious meal, exchanging stories about our time spent apart. Once more, to satisfy a restless Bobo (Till's nickname), we were going to go out.”

Six total, brothers, cousins and a neighbor drove to the Bryant store that day where Till ended up in the store alone for what Wright said was just a brief time, alone with Carolyn Bryant who was in her early 20s. He recounts that Till did nothing inappropriate such as grabbing the Bryant woman by the wrist or put his arms around her or asked her for a date—a story he said she later told the court.