The murder and the trial horrified the nation and the world. Till’s death was a spark that helped mobilize the Civil Rights movement. Three months after his body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River, the Montgomery bus boycott began.
Less than two weeks after Emmett’s body was buried, J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant went on trial in a segregated courthouse in Sumner, Mississippi. There were few witnesses besides Mose Wright, who positively identified the defendants as Emmett’s killers.
On September 23, the all-white jury deliberated for less than an hour before issuing a verdict of “not guilty,” explaining that they believed the state had failed to prove the identity of the body. Many people around the country were outraged by the decision and also by the state’s decision not to indict Milam and Bryant on the separate charge of kidnapping.
In 2017, Tim Tyson, author of the book The Blood of Emmett Till, revealed that Carolyn Bryant recanted her testimony, admitting that Till had never touched, threatened, or harassed her. “Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him,” she said.
An NBC News analysis recently found at least 165 local and national groups that aim to disrupt lessons on race and gender. The groups are largely reinforced by conservative think tanks, law firms, and activist parents.
The tension can be traced back to then-President Donald Trump’s 2020 memo in which the White House Office of Management and Budget ordered a stop to fund federal training on diversity and critical race theory. Around the same time, Trump sought to rebuke the 1619 Project, which culminated with the release of his administration’s “1776 Report” just prior to his leaving office earlier this year.
Those actions planted the seed for the recent education fight, and critics of the bills say the tension pressures schools boards and ultimately harms students most. It’s a battle that has invaded every level of government from Congress through local school boards, with conservative groups backing the efforts.