Emmett Till's cousin says she considers George Floyd's death a modern-day lynching

Till was just 14 years old in 1955 when he was brutally murdered for allegedly flirting with a white woman inside her family’s grocery store. Today, federal anti-lynching laws still don’t exist.
6:31 | 06/20/20

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Transcript for Emmett Till's cousin says she considers George Floyd's death a modern-day lynching
It says something profound that in the middle of the protest for George Floyd, there are people holding signs, pointing to an injustice from 1955. The lynching of Emmett till is a wound that runs deep and long. The scar of his death at the hands of white executioners changed the course of the civil rights movement, and it happened in Mississippi. Difficult to think of any human being, and especially my flesh and blood suffering in that manner. She was just a child and remembers the moment like that was yesterday. 14 year old Emmett till was her because he was black, he was tortured in a barn, his body dumped in the river, no justice was ever served. Last fall, she traveled here with her family to replace a plaque that marks the river bank where his body had Benjamin found. Over the years, the memorial had been shot at and vandalized many times. We are still witnessing young people, women and men, being killed, lynched in a different way. We have to fight to change the world, and this is what Emmett's mother wanted to do. As a child, Ms. Gordon lived with her cousin Emmett and his mother in Chicago. He was loving, he loved to pull jokes on people. He liked people to laugh. He was the oldest in the house. He was more or less our protector. ? She remembers when he left to visit family in muddy Mississippi in the summer of 1955. I remember his mother trying to tell him how he should behave and act, because he wasn't familiar with that lifestyle in Mississippi. And that was the last time that I saw him alive. It was a place where many Americans at the time thought nothing of black lives, where in the century before hanging black bodies from a tree was a family affair. It was a reminder of the racial hierarchy that existed. You could kill a person, a black person, with impunity, and no one would care. And no one would be brought to justice. It was this picture of a lynching that led to a poem, and then a song. Hangin' from the poplar trees Billie holiday's take was the anthem at the time. It occurs when an individual or group of individuals consider themselves to be judge, jury and executioner. Nearly 5,000 black Americans lost their lives from the late 1800s to the late 1960s. And one of the lives lost was Ollie Gordon's cousin, Emmett till. Just three days into a summer trip in Mississippi, a white woman named Carolyn Bryan accused the boy of whistling at her inside a grocery store. A couple days later, Emmett till went missing in the middle of the night. Bryant's husband and other family had it taken the boy. He was brutally beaten and shot in the head. They found what was left of his broken body in the tallahatchie river. The call came. The screaming. The disbelief. I don't really talk about it a lot, because I do cry. At his funeral in Chicago, his mother would make a decision that would change hearts across the country. She decided she was going to have an open casket funeral, because she wanted the world to see the grotesque ugliness of racism. All of the newspapers, all of the magazines worldwide started to, to show these images. It was this disturbing image of her son's swollen face that shared the unfiltered truth that moved Americans. The streets weren't quiet then or now. Ms. Gordon says it all feels familiar. This is a challenging time for our people, and we wanted to get your thoughts. Because we haven't talked with you since the George Floyd incident happened. I would imagine every time you see one of these killings it's got to be just, you know, a painful reminder of what you've gone through. Like a stab in the heart. The most difficult one for me was to look at George Floyd. The people responsible for his death, they knew that other people were around, and they seemed to have not cared at all. Would you call this a modern-day lynching? Definitely, definitely. There's no other way to describe it. It's hard to believe, but there is no federal law against lynching. Over the years, congress has tried, more than 200 times. Earlier this year, Ms. Gordon and her daughter went to Washington to push for the anti-lynching act and it is currently stalled in the senate over concerns from Rand Paul, who is arguing over lynch should be defined. But, as history teaches us, progress comes when people who have less of a reason to care do. And there's hope that this is happening.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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