- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 29, 2009

CHICAGO (AP) | The glass-topped casket that showed lynching victim Emmett Till’s battered body to the world and became a rallying point for the civil rights movement will be put on display at the Smithsonian Institution, Till’s family announced Friday.

Till’s family spoke at the same church on Chicago’s South Side where in 1955 the brutalized remains of the 14-year-old were displayed at his funeral. Photographs of his battered body in the coffin were viewed around the world and became powerful images of the civil rights movement.

“Part of the responsibility of a national museum is to help people to remember, and through this donation we will ensure that future generations will remember how the death of a child, a mother’s courage, helped to transform America,” said Lonnie Bunch, the director of the Smithsonian’s planned National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The announcement follows last month’s discovery of Till’s tattered, dented and rusty casket in a garbage-strewn storage shed at a suburban cemetery where former workers are charged with digging up corpses and reselling burial plots.

The former workers are not accused of disturbing Till’s grave. However, while detectives were investigating the cemetery desecration, they found Till’s casket that had been pulled from the ground when his body was exhumed in 2005 as part of an investigation into his death. Till’s body was then buried in another casket and the family was told the original casket would be kept for a memorial.

Friday marks 54 years since Till, who was black, was killed in Mississippi for whistling at a white woman. His mutilated body was found three days after two men snatched him from his bed. The two men were acquitted, but the next year they confessed to the killing in a Look magazine article.

Till’s cousin, Simeon Wright, was in the room when Till was taken from his bed. At Friday’s news conference, Mr. Wright recalled thinking, as a 12-year-old boy leaving the courtroom where the men were acquitted, that there was no one to turn to for help.

“Hopefully, when this casket, when it’s on display at the Smithsonian, young boys and young girls from all over the world are going to see it and it’s going to inspire them to fight for those who are too weak to fight for themselves,” he said.

Mr. Bunch said the casket is an important historical artifact.

“The casket itself was part of the story,” he said. Further, Mr. Bunch said, there is no understating the importance of what Mamie Till-Mobley did when she put placed her son’s open casket in Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ.

“This is partly a way to pay homage to Mrs. Mobley, her courage to demand that the world look at this,” said Mr. Bunch, who came to know her when he was president of what is now called the Chicago History Museum. “And this is an incident that really reawakened the civil rights movement.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide