Bipartisan Call in the Senate for Congressional Gold Medal to be Awarded to Emmett Till and His Mother

Illustration for article titled Bipartisan Call in the Senate for Congressional Gold Medal to be Awarded to Emmett Till and His Mother
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In a rare moment of bi-partisanship, a Republican and Democratic senator have called for the nation’s highest civilian honor to be awarded posthumously to Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley.


NBC News reports that Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) introduced a bill to award the Congressional Medal of Honor to the Till family. Emmett Till was a 14-year-old Black boy who, in 1955, was brutally lynched by a group of white men after being accused of whistling at a white woman. Despite eyewitness testimony tying them to the murder, the men responsible were acquitted in court.

“While his lynching and the impunity that followed was unique in its horror, it revealed the persistent legacy of racialized terror and violence waged against Black Americans and reflected the stain of racism and bigotry that this nation continues to struggle with today,” Booker said in a statement introducing the bill.

Till’s mother, Mamie, held an open-casket funeral for her son so people could see what was done to her son. Images of Till’s body only added fuel to the then-burgeoning civil rights movement and Mamie Till remained a civil rights activist throughout her life to honor her son. She went on to form the Emmett Till Players, which involved teenagers traveling the country and spreading the speeches of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“The Congressional Gold Medal is the nation’s highest civilian honor. Awarding it posthumously to Emmett Till, and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, would be a long overdue recognition of what the Till family endured and what they accomplished in their fight against injustice” Burr said in a statement. 

Till-Mobley would also go on to help found the Emmett Till Justice Campaign, an effort to launch a new investigation into her son’s case. She died in 2003 at the age of 81, almost fifty years after her son had died. In 2008, President George W. Bush signed the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act into law, which allowed the unsolved civil rights cases to be re-opened.

The stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet flying, wheelin' and dealin' nerd of The Root.



Yes, symbolically this is significant for the pain caused this family. Symbols are good signposts.

But symbols can also be performative, meaningless and tokens that really only allow the apathetic something minor to point to and avoid making real, substantive changes.

It may be selfish and I know it ain’t all on the Democrats but I’d rather see some Congressional movement on extending/ that pandemic unemployment, forgiving Black student loans, extending the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures - throw in some new provisions not normally included (like they included gig workers earlier) and give some longterm Black unemployed a bonus and call it the Emmitt Till cash or reparations or BLM something!

Doing this now, when the Tills are long dead and can’t benefit, will only make whites feel like they performed major surgery when they only put Vaseline on a gunshot wound.