Letter: Justice remains elusive for Emmett Till

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Letter: Justice remains elusive for Emmett Till

August 27, 2017 - 20:11
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Editor,

I appreciate the articles written in the June 1 (H-F Chronicle) issue, “Family helps bring stories to life at national museum” by Jade Greear, and “Black man’s history being included in American story” by Paul Thornton.
 
The article written by Paul Thornton is one expressing the importance of black history and also to inform the public and those who are not familiar with the Emmett Till story. 
 
I learned on April 7, 2017, that the Attorney General was going to consider re-opening the 1955 Mississippi murder of Emmett Till. I am retired from the Department of Justice and I have formally requested that this case be re-opened. 

In 2004, while working with the Department of Justice, I wrote to the Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division requesting the re-opening of this case and ultimately it was. The FBI did not bring federal charges in Till’s slaying in 2006. 

The Chicago Tribune reported on January 31, 2017, that Carolyn Bryant Donham, who was the woman that Till allegedly whistled at, admitted that she lied. She is the only living person involved in this horrific hate crime and her ex-husband and his half brother (both deceased) were acquitted of murdering Till. 

Carolyn Bryant Donham doesn’t deserve any credit for finally telling the truth when we all knew it was a lie. Emmett Till’s mother died knowing that justice was never served. 

I have a personal interest in this case because I went to James McCosh Elementary School with Emmett Till and was his friend and neighbor. 

Emmett Till was in my sister’s class. Our elementary school in Chicago (James McCosh) was renamed in 2006 to Emmett Till Academy in Till’s honor. My sister and I and numerous classmates of Emmett Till were there for the ceremony. A few of the teachers who were up in age were there also. We also offered our class pictures with Emmett Till in them. 
 
I was only 11 years old when this tragedy struck. I can remember sitting in my living room when my parents told me what happened and I was trying to visualize what Emmett Till would have looked like after this brutal slaying. When his photo appeared in Jet Magazine it was far beyond my wildest imagination. 

My father was a Chicago Police Officer at the time of Till’s death who escorted his mother inside the funeral where she wanted the public to see his mutilated body lying in an open casket. My parents would not allow me to go to the funeral and looking back I can understand why. My father can be seen in the “American Experience-The Murder of Emmett Till” documentary. This is a painful experience for me whenever I revisit this time in history.

Paul Thornton must be applauded for taking an interest to share with his family the hate, discrimination and injustices that occurred during the Civil Rights struggle.
 
I, too, will make the journey to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I know that in my heart that Emmett Till will not become a forgotten victim. 
 
I am a resident of Homewood and a commissioner on the Fire & Police Commission for the Village of Homewood.
 
Thank you and your staff for keeping our communities well informed.

Anita Cochran
Homewood