WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced legislation to posthumously award Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
“Emmett Till’s gruesome murder by white supremacists was never vindicated by our justice system,” said Senator Booker. “While his lynching and the impunity that followed was unique in its horror, it revealed of 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. The heroic patriotism his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, displayed in allowing the world to witness the unspeakable violence her son endured forced our nation to confront its collective failure to address the evil of racism. The Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor, is long-overdue recognition for Emmett and Mamie Till-Mobley’s legacy, and I am proud to introduce this legislation alongside Senator Burr.”
“Emmett Till’s brutal murder, and his grieving mother Mamie’s incredible courage and resolve in its aftermath, galvanized the Civil Rights movement and changed our nation,” said Senator Burr. “That legacy is still felt today and honoring it is more important than ever. 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. I am proud to work with Senator Booker on this effort.”
Joining Booker and Burr as cosponsors of the bipartisan legislation are Senators Baldwin, Bennet, Blumenthal, Cantwell, Casey, Collins, Coons, Cornyn, Cortez Masto, Duckworth, Durbin, Feinstein, Harris, Heinrich, Hirono, Hyde Smith, Kaine, Klobuchar, Leahy, Markey, Menendez, Merkley, Murphy, Murray, Portman, Reed, Rosen, Rubio, Sanders, Tim Scott, Tillis, Smith, Van Hollen, Warner, Warren, Whitehouse, Wicker, and Wyden.
In 1955, Emmett Till was kidnapped, beaten, and brutally murdered in Money, Mississippi while visiting his uncle, Moses Wright. Till’s murderers were acquitted despite Wright providing an eyewitness testimony that the men on trial kidnapped Till.
Following Till’s death, his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, brought his body back to Chicago and demanded an open casket funeral with more than 50,000 attendees. Till-Mobley allowed a photograph to be taken of Till in his casket, which galvanized activists who were working for civil rights.
Till-Mobley continued her work for justice in honor of her son. She created the Emmett Till Players, where teenagers traveled throughout the country presenting Martin Luther King, Jr. speeches. Additionally, Till-Mobley was the co-founder of the Emmett Till Justice Campaign, which significantly impacted our justice system through pushing for the re-investigation of Till’s murder by the State of Mississippi, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Justice in 2004, and by working to pass the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007, to ensure the Justice Department and FBI investigate civil rights era cold cases.