Emmett Till, Mamie Till-Mobley to be awarded Congressional Gold Medal after unanimous vote

The award is the highest civilian honor given by Congress.

December 22, 2022, 3:30 PM

Emmett Till and his mother Mamie Till-Mobley will be posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal after a unanimous vote from the House on Wednesday.

Introduced by Sen. Richard Burr and Sen. Cory Booker in Feb. 2021, the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley Congressional Gold Medal Act passed the Senate on January 10. The National Museum of African American History and Culture, where Till’s original casket is on exhibit, will receive the award on Till and Till-Mobley’s behalf once the bill is signed by President Biden.

The esteemed award will honor Till-Mobley for her bravery and pioneering civil rights work after the brutal kidnapping and murder of her 14-year-old son by white supremacists in 1955.

Mamie Till Mobley stands before a portrait of her slain son, Emmett Till, in her Chicago home, July 28, 1995.
Beth A. Keiser/AP, FILE

Till, a young teenager from Chicago, was visiting family in Mississippi when he was abducted from his great-uncle Moses Wright's home by Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam. Till had been accused by Bryant’s 21-year-old wife of making advances at her. His body, mutilated beyond recognition, was found days later in the Tallahatchie River.

The two men were indicted on kidnapping and murder charges, but acquitted by an all-white jury.

Bryant Donham has never been arrested for the incident, motivating decades-long efforts from some relatives and activists to see the woman, now in her late 80s, held responsible in court for her involvement.

Congressional Gold Medals are seen before a ceremony.
Tom Williams/AP, FILE

In the years after the tragedy and her movement-catalyzing decision to have photos of Till’s open casket published in Jet magazine, Till-Mobley went on to become an educator and prominent activist.

“Let the people see what I have seen. I want the world to see what is going on in Mississippi, in this great ole United States of America," she said to the undertaker of her decision to leave Till’s remains untouched and uncovered.

Emmett Louis Till, 14, with his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, at home in Chicago.
Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images, FILE

Till’s death, and Till-Mobley’s profound grief that followed, became a rallying cry for Black America, exposing the devastating consequences of racism and bigotry on a soon to be national platform. Determined to honor her son through her work, she inspired many, creating a youth troupe called the Emmett Till Players, teaching in Chicago schools for over twenty years and co-founding the Emmett Till Justice Campaign.

Till-Mobley died in 2003 at 81 years old.