In August of 1955, fourteen-year-old Emmett Till arrived in the small town of Money, Mississippi to stay with his great uncle. Earlier that year, two NAACP workers had been murdered in nearby Belzoni while registering people to vote. School desegregation was also underway.
On the 24, Till and some friends went to Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market for snacks where Till was accused of whistling at Carolyn Bryant, a white woman and the owner’s wife.
Four days later, Bryant’s husband Roy and his half-brother J. W. Milam kidnap Till in the middle of the night from his great uncle’s house. It was the last time Till was seen alive. The pair was arrested the next day on kidnapping charges. Till’s brutally beaten body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River two days later.
Till’s mother Mamie decides to have his funeral be open casket and the photographs were published in Jet Magazine, horrifying people across the nation. Bryant and Milam were indicted and their trial began in September. The all-white male jury found the men not guilty after deliberating for barely an hour. Many years later, Carolyn Bryant recanted her testimony.
While some may feel that this tragic event is ancient history, the life of Emmett Till is still important today. The Emmett Till Memory Project was established to interpret the sites. Some signs have been repeatedly vandalized, including by a group of college students in 2019.
All of the Mississippi sites can be visited in a day, located less than an hour apart. Some are on rural roads that aren’t fully paved. This post is not an exhaustive list of the memory trail sites, but we’ve included the easiest to visit. There’s also an app to help you find these landmarks.
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Bryant’s Grocery, Money
Located outside of Greenwood, the small town of Money was where Till visited his great uncle and took that fateful trip to Bryant’s Grocery. The store carried food and other essentials for the people that lived and worked on nearby farms.
Despite its significance, it has fallen into disrepair, the ceiling caved in and plant life growing on top of it. The current owners, the descendants of one of the jurors, have refused to sell to transform it into a museum and have asked for an outrageous sum.
But next door at Ben Roy’s Service Station, owned by the same family, visitors can get an idea of what the store would have looked like in 1955. It has been restored thanks to a state grant. There are also interpretive signs telling visitors what transpired there.
Tallahatchie County Courthouse, Sumner
The Tallahatchie County Courthouse in the small town of Sumner was the site of the miscarriage of justice that followed Till’s murder. Originally built in 1947, this courthouse served rural communities of the Delta, including Charleston, Tutweiler, Swan Lake, and Sumner.
In 1955, it was the site of the trial of J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant, the accused murderers of Till. Over 400 people crammed into the small space to watch the proceedings. In 2015, the historic courthouse was restored to its 1955 condition and opened as a museum.
Across the street is the Emmett Till Interpretive Center, which has additional exhibits on Till and the resulting trial, including the original River Site sign. The area’s only restaurant, Sumner Grille, is also on the square.
The River Sites, Glendora
The Tallahatchie River played an important role in the events that followed Till’s murder. It’s been debated where Till’s body was dumped into the river tied to a cotton fan blade and where it was pulled out.
The most commonly cited location for where he was found is at Graball Landing, a former steamboat landing site. After repeated vandalism to the original sign, including bullet holes, a New York-based company made a new one out of bulletproof material, free of charge.
The other River Site marker is two miles away at the Sharkey River Bridge in Glendora.
Emmett Till Historic Intrepid Center (ETHIC), Glendora
Another important stop is the Glendora Gin, where it’s believed that Milam and Bryant stole a fan blade and tied it Till’s body to it before tossing him in the river. It operated as a gin and later a farm processing plant before becoming the Emmett Till Historic Intrepid Center, in 2005.
Within walking distance is a marker for Milam’s homesite and another for Clinton Melton. He was a Black man killed by Elmer Kimball, Milam’s friend and employee of the gin, a few months after Till’s murder.