City of Mississippi unveils Emmett Till memorial statue

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The Mississippi community of Greenwood erected a towering statue Friday in honor of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old black boy whose murder triggered much of the 20th century civil rights movement.

“I feel like when young people ask me what Emmett Till’s keepsake is, we have this statue as a keepsake,” Mississippi State Sen. David Jordan, who represents Greenwood, told ABC News. . “He liberated all black people for all he sacrificed.”

The memorial statue is 9ft tall – a bronze figure reminiscent of Till’s infamous portrait with a white button-up shirt, trousers and his left hand tipping his hat with a slight smile on his face.

The unveiling of the statue comes just a week after the release of “Till,” a film detailing the untold chapter in Till’s story centered on his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, who championed civil rights activism after the murder of his son.

“It’s a great day as we take another step forward in recognizing the life and legacy of Emmett Till,” Reverend Wheeler Parker Jr., the only remaining member of Emmett Till, told ABC News. Till’s family who saw his cousin the night he was kidnapped.

Till, a Chicago native, was murdered in August 1955 after being accused of whistling a white woman at a grocery store in Drew, Mississippi, about 40 miles north of Greenwood, the county seat of the Delta region. The two white men arrested for kidnapping, torturing and lynching the 14-year-old were acquitted by an all-white jury.

Till-Mobley insisted that her son hold an open funeral to allow the surrounding community to witness the torture inflicted on her son. She became a prominent leader of the civil rights movement, adamant that her son should not have died in vain.

Jet Magazine published the intimidating image of Till’s bruised face that changed lives forever. Numerous black publications, including The Chicago Defender, New York Amsterdam News and various others, have been accused of pushing the needle in reporting the atrocity.

“When I met Rosa Parks in 1961, she said she didn’t leave that seat for Emmett Till,” Jordan said.

But there are still reminders of Mississippi’s segregationist past everywhere. A Confederate monument stands outside the Greenwood Courthouse lawn, just a few miles from Greenwood’s Rail Spike Park where Till’s new statue stands.

“While so many are determined to erase our history, we are blessed to have so many other allies in the fight to keep our history alive,” Parker said. “This statue is the affirmation that our lives matter.”

Although the demographics of Greenwood and Leflore County are approximately 70% black, it took state officials years to erect the statue. This year, Jordan was finally able to allocate $150,000 in public funding to commission Utah artist Matt Glen to sculpt the statue.

“I’m thrilled this happened here in Mississippi, and it’s a glorious day for everyone in Greenwood, Mississippi,” Jordan said.

ABC News’ Fatima Curry and Sabina Ghebremedhin contributed to this report.

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