Emmett Till and his mother Mamie Till-Mobley are officially being honored with the Congressional Gold Medal, after the House of Representatives voted unanimously on Wednesday.
Till was a 14-year-old boy lynched in 1955 after allegedly flirting with a white woman in a convenience store. His white killers were acquitted by an all-white jury, before selling a detailed account of how they committed the murder to journalists afterwards.
Till-Mobley's decision to have an open-casket funeral, revealing the horrible injuries her son endured, is often credited as the initial spark that ignited the civil rights movement. She died in 2003.
The medal was awarded by Congress posthumously, but is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a civilian. It will be given to the National Museum of African American History, which will display the medal aside the casket Till was buried in.
The bill was introduced in the Senate by New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker, and North Carolina Republican Richard Burr. In a statement to the Senate following the bill's passage, Booker noted why it was especially important to honor Till-Mobley.
“The courage and activism demonstrated by Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, in displaying to the world the brutality endured by her son helped awaken the nation’s conscience, forcing America to reckon with its failure to address racism and the glaring injustices that stem from such hatred," he said via NBC News.
The gold medal has been an honor bestowed by Congress since 1776. Previous recipients include Rosa Parks, the Little Rock Nine, and Jackie Robinson. Till and Till-Mobley's award comes just months after a bill was introduced in the House to add Till-Mobley to a postage stamp, as well as President Biden signing the first-ever anti-lynching act into law, named after Till.
Till was also recently honored with a statue near the site of his murder. Madison Harper, a senior at Leflore County High School, spoke at the dedication about what it means for the city now.
“Change has come, and it will continue to happen,” she said via NBC News. “Decades ago, our parents and grandparents could not envision that a moment like today would transpire.”
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