Past memorials to Emmett Till, a black teenager murdered in 1955 after being accused of whistling at a white woman, were so frequently vandalized that Mississippi officials have had to replace an existing historical plaque with a bulletproof version.
At just 14 years old, Till was kidnapped, beaten, shot and thrown into the Tallahatchie River. Following the lynching, his killers were acquitted by an all-white jury. The first historical marker dedicated to Till was not introduced until 2008, when it was promptly thrown into the same river where white supremacists dumped Till’s body. Two subsequent signs were rendered unreadable after being riddled with bullet holes. The new steel sign weighs 500 pounds and has a bulletproof glass cover. Patrick Weems, executive director of the Emmett Till Memorial Commission, told the Guardian that if racists find a way to deface this marker, it will be replaced with another as well:
“For 50 years nobody talked about Emmett Till,” he said. “I think we just have to be resilient and know there are folks out there that don’t want to know this history or who want to erase the history. We are just going to be resilient in continuing to put them back up and be truthful in making sure that Emmett didn’t die in vain.”
Two of Till’s cousins attended the October 19 dedication ceremony, including the Rev Wheeler Parker who traveled to Mississippi with Till in 1955 and was present the night he was kidnapped.