Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

The photo of Mamie Till Mobley mourning over her son’s open coffin was a catalyst for the civil rights movement. (Photo: Chicago Sun-Times, via Associated Press)

While 'Scar of Injustice' Lingers and Racist Violence Persists, DOJ Reopens 1955 Murder Case of Emmett Till

"Some have told us to move on, it's too late! Is it really too late for us to pursue justice?"

Jon Queally

The case into the 1955 kidnapping, torture, and murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till—whose killing helped galvanize opposition to racism in the South and fueled the Civil Rights movement—has been reopened by the U.S. Justice Department, news outlets reported Wednesday.

"The scar of injustice is deep, but we are convinced that if we can get justice and make this right for Emmett, America can begin to heal." —Deborah Watts, Emmett Till Legacy Foundation According to the Associated Press:

The Justice Department told Congress in a report in March it is reinvestigating Till’s slaying in Money, Mississippi, in 1955 after receiving “new information.” The case was closed in 2007 with authorities saying the suspects were dead; a state grand jury didn’t file any new charges.

Deborah Watts, a cousin of Till, said she was unaware the case had been reopened until contacted by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The federal report, sent annually to lawmakers under a law that bears Till’s name, does not indicate what the new information might be.

In an op-ed earlier this month, Till's cousin Deborah Watts, founder of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation, argued that holding those guilty of Emmett's murder—even after more than 60 years—is as essential and necessary as it ever was. Citing Timothy B. Tyson's recently-published book "The Blood of Emmett Till"—which the AP reporting speculates could be at least part of the reason the DOJ has reopened the case—Watts wrote, "Some have told us to move on, it's too late! Is it really too late for us to pursue justice?"

She concluded:

Who will now stand with us to make sure there is justice for Emmett? 

There are so many other deaths that have gone unsolved. The justice system needs to right the wrongs done and work for us and other African-Americans and their families. No family should ever have to endure this pain and injustice for this long.

We are committed to continue to tell Emmett's story and our stories, educate and empower our youth, preserve the legacy of Emmett and his mother, fight for justice, remind the nation to never forget, and ask everyone to join us in pledging never again! 

The scar of injustice is deep, but we are convinced that if we can get justice and make this right for Emmett, America can begin to heal. 

The clock is ticking. Will you join our call for justice now?


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Indignation as Michigan Judge Drops Flint Water Charges Against GOP Ex-Gov Snyder

"The people of Flint deserve justice—and it's unacceptable that the people responsible for Flint's water crisis aren't being held accountable," said Food & Water Watch in response to the development.

Brett Wilkins ·

70+ Lawmakers Tell Biden 'You Can and You Must' Provide Rail Workers Paid Sick Leave

"As president, you and your administration have a number of tools at your disposal to make sure rail workers are guaranteed paid sick leave," wrote the lawmakers.

Julia Conley ·

COP15 Biodiversity Summit Highlights 'Deadly' US Attitude Toward the World

"While others play by the rules, the most powerful nation refuses," writes George Monbiot. "If this country were a person, we'd call it a psychopath. As it is not a person, we should call it what it is: a rogue state."

Jessica Corbett ·

Final House Covid Panel Report Exposes 'Reckless' Trump Pandemic Response

The publication accuses top Trump officials of "failed stewardship" and a "persistent pattern of political interference" that undermined the nation's response to a pandemic that has killed more than a million people in the United States.

Brett Wilkins ·

As NYT Staffers Strike, Sanders Calls for 'New Ways to Empower' Workers Battling Industry Giants

"We need to rebuild and protect a diverse and truly independent press so that real journalists and media workers can do the critical jobs that they love, and that a functioning democracy requires," said the Vermont progressive.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo