NBC's Bryant Gumbel interviews Emmett Till's mother, Mamie Mobley, about her son's legacy.
Emmett Till's Mother Speaks
BRYANT GUMBEL, anchor: It was almost 30 years ago that Greenwood was the scene of one of this country’s most brutal examples of racial hatred. The murder of 14 year-old black teenager Emmett Till. With us is Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Mobley, who now directs the Chicago theater group she founded called, “The Emmett Till Players,” thank you for being with us.
Your son was not the first black youngster to be killed for racial reasons and I doubt that he will be the last, why was his death so special?
Ms. MAMIE MOBLEY: Well to tell you Bryant this is what we don’t understand. Yes there were many killed before Emmett, but Emmett’s death had an impact that reached around the world. I have said and many have said that it was the divine providence of God that this one should be so special, that Emmett was probably here on a special mission.
GUMBEL: Bill Minor is also here with us; he is a syndicated columnist whose work appears in 42 newspapers throughout Mississippi, in addition to writing for the New York Times and Newsweek. He covered the trial of Emmet Till and has lived in Mississippi since that time.
Emmett Till’s story today in Mississippi, a watershed event, a shameful memory, a footnote in history, something forgotten… what?
MR. BILL MINOR: Well of course the Mississippians would love to forget about it but its something in the dark past of the state that is bound to come up again and again. I think it did provide a watershed; it was the beginning of consciousness of Civil Rights and certainly it made the state more conscious for the first time that the rest of the nation was watching what the state was doing.
BRYANT: Do Mississippians in some cases feel bum wrapped, not that the racist label was undeserved but that it could have also been applied to many other states too? Well the reaction from the Mississippians was one that… yes, the interference from the rest of the country, and why are they paying so much attention to us? Bumper stickers appeared on the back of automobiles, “Mississippi the most lied about state in the Union.” And the reaction was one of hostility.
BRYANT: One question, what ever became of Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam?
MOBLEY: They disappeared from the scene. It was mentioned, the story came out in Look Magazine, and then there was a follow up story a year later.
GUMBEL: Are they alive today?
MOBLEY: As far as I know they are somewhere but not in Mississippi.
GUMBEL: We have fifteen seconds left, Mrs. Mobley, are you still bitter today?
MOBLEY: Oh Bryant, I never was bitter. I’m very happy to say that I never was bitter. And I would like to answer the question concerning Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam: J.W. is dead, Roy is alive.
GUMBEL: Mamie Mobley, Bill Minor, thank you both very much for being with us.
MONEY, Miss. — Two vans, escorted by local sheriff's deputies, traveled deep into the Mississippi Delta. Through endless stretches of corn and cotton. It was early afternoon when they arrived at the dilapidated grocery store.
"Is this it?" one of the travelers asked.
The building was barely standing, covered in thick weeds and ivy. Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market, once the centerpiece of Money, a bustling town of 400. In 1955, it was the site of 14-year-old Emmett Till's fatal crime — whistling at a white woman.