The ghost of Emmett Till, in the form of a photo, appeared on the front page of the Sun-Times Tuesday. Like all ghosts, it demands a response. A startle, then a closer look.
The smiling, viewable photo, of course, was taken before the 14-year-old Chicagoan was abducted, beaten, shot and dumped in the Tallahatchie River while on a visit to relatives in Mississippi in 1955. Not one of the gruesome images that ran in Jet magazine after his body spent three days in the river before being noticed by boys fishing nearby.
The two men accused of murdering him grinningly walked, the all-white jury waving them on their way.
But the case was reopened by the Justice Department in 2017, after publication of a book claiming the shopkeeper, Carolyn Bryant Donham, who accused Till of doing something unwelcome — whistling, making a lewd comment, squeezing her hand — admitted she had lied. That the boy hadn’t done anything to spark the fury of her husband and his friends.
The FBI probed the author’s records but didn’t find the necessary evidence, so it closed the case.
Abandoning charges disappointed Till’s family. They wanted Donham to admit that her claims were false. That she was sorry.
“I had hoped that we could get an apology,” one said.
Why? Why is it important to believe that Till didn’t do anything objectionable? That he wasn’t a brash Chicago teen visiting his country cousins, ignoring his mother’s advice, being crude and showing off?
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