Updated as of 12/22/2022 at 5:24 p.m. ET
Emmett Till’s horrific lynching in rural Mississippi at just 14-years-old shocked and horrified the nation. His legacy, carried on by his mother, the late-great Mamie Till-Mobley, helped wake up the country to the tragic realities of anti-Black racism in the United States.
Now, the pair are finally getting the congressional recognition they deserve. On Wednesday, the House unanimously voted to posthumously award the Congressional Medal to Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie.
The Senate passed a bill awarding Till and Mamie the medals last January, according to the Associated Press.
Their remaining family members were “overjoyed” by the announcement.
“You can’t understand the modern Civil Rights Movement without understanding the story of Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley...The Congressional Gold Medal will further acknowledge their lives and sacrifices, and keep their legacy alive,” said Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., cousin and best friend of Emmett Till, and last living witness to Emmett Till’s abduction in a statment. He also noted the historic legislation finally banning lynching that was passed earlier this year in Emmett Till’s honor.
“Mamie would be overjoyed at this moment, knowing that the posthumous award of the Congressional Gold Medal is a testament to her courage and lifelong work, preserves the memory of her son, and will continue to inspire future generations,” said Ollie Gordon, cousin and Goddaughter of Mamie Till-Mobley, and vice president of the Till Institute Board.
Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black boy from Chicago, was brutally abducted, tortured, and murdered by two white men while visiting family in rural Mississippi in 1955. Witnesses say they saw him whistling at a white woman, Carolyn Bryant, enraging both her husband, Roy Bryant, and his brother J.W. Milam, who murdered Emmett Till.
Neither of his murderers received jail time. They were both acquitted by an all-white jury.
If not for his mother’s bravery, Emmett Till may have been forgotten. Mamie made the decision to have an open casket for her son’s funeral, willing the world to see what racism had done to her baby boy.
From there, Mamie continued to fight against racism, giving speeches across the country demanding racial equality and unity among Black people. “What happens to any of us, anywhere in the world, had better be the business of all of us,” Mamie proclaimed in the years after her son’s death.
Senator Cory Booker lionized the civil rights leader, who passed away in 2003, and her son, in his speech after the vote.
“The courage and activism demonstrated by Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, in displaying to the world the brutality endured by her son helped awaken the nation’s conscience,” Booker said in a statement to the AP, “forcing America to reckon with its failure to address racism and the glaring injustices that stem from such hatred.”