The murder and trial of Emmett Till
August 19, 1955 - Mamie Till Bradley gives Emmett a ring once owned by his father, Louis Till. It is inscribed with the initials, L.T.
August 20, 1955 - Mamie drops Emmett at the 63rd Street station in Chicago to catch the southbound train to Money, Mississippi.
August 21, 1955 - Emmett and his cousin, Curtis Jones, arrive in Money to stay at the home of their great uncle, Moses Wright.
August 24, 1955 - Emmett joins a group of teenagers, seven boys and one girl, to go to Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market (owned by a white couple, Roy and Carolyn Bryant), for refreshments after a long day of picking cotton. While in the store, there is an altercation between Emmett and Carolyn Bryant.
Some accounts say Emmett wolf-whistled at Carolyn, while others say he grabbed her, making advances. The group left quickly after the encounter.
August 27, 1955 (Evening) - Roy Bryant, Carolyn’s husband, and a black man, J.W. Washington, seized a young black man off the street and took him to be identified by one of Carolyn’s friends. She denies that he is the boy involved. During an interrogation of the boy, Bryant learns where Emmett was staying.
August 28, 1955 (2:30/3am) - Bryant and his half-brother, John William “J.W.” Milam, and another man, rumored to have been black, drive to Wright’s house and abduct Emmett from his bed.
August 28, 1955 (3/3:30am) - Wright leaves his house to search for Emmett.
August 28, 1955 (Early Morning) - Bryant and Milam visit various places around town with Emmett. During the course of these stops, Emmett is pistol-whipped, beaten, and finally shot. His body is dumped into the river, tied to a 70lb fan.
August 28, 1955 (8am) - Wright returns home after an unsuccessful search for Emmett.
August 28, 1955 (Morning) - Wright refuses to call the cops, fearing for his life. Curtis Jones calls the Leflore County Sheriff Dept. and his mother in Chicago. Wright and his wife drive to Sumner, where Elizabeth Wright’s brother has also called the Sheriff.
August 29, 1955 - Bryant and Milam are brought in for questioning. They admit to taking Emmett from the Wright’s house. They insist they had released him in front of Bryant’s store. They are arrested on kidnapping charges and jailed in Greenwood, Mississippi without bail.
August 30, 1955 - Medgar Evers, (Mississippi State Field Secretary for the NAACP), and Amzie Moore, (Head of the Bolivar County Chapter), go undercover as pickers in the cotton fields in search of any information that might help find Till.
August 31, 1955 - Emmett’s decomposed corpse is pulled out of the Tallahatchie River. Wright identifies the body by the silver ring with the initials, L.T. (for Emmett’s father), on the body’s finger.
September 1, 1955 - Mississippi Governor, Hugh White, orders local officials to "fully prosecute" Milam and Bryant in the Till case.
September 2, 1955 - Mamie Till Bradley arrives at the Illinois Central Terminal to receive Emmett's casket. Family and photographers surround her. Photos are taken of her collapsing in grief at the sight of the casket. The body is taken to the A. A. Rayner & Sons Funeral Home.
September 3, 1955 - Emmett Till's body is taken to Chicago's Roberts Temple Church of God for viewing and funeral services. Mamie’s decision to have an open casket funeral brings thousands of Chicagoans and press, who wait in line for hours to see Emmett's brutally beaten body.
September 6, 1955 - Emmett Till laid to rest at Burr Oak Cemetery.
September 7, 1955 - A Tallahatchie County grand jury indicts Milam and Bryant for the kidnapping and murder of Emmett Till. A conviction on either charge could carry the death penalty. Both men enter a plea of not guilty and are held, without bail, until the start of the trial.
September 15, 1955 - Jet magazine publishes photographs of Till's mutilated corpse. This shocks and outrages African Americans nationwide.
September 17, 1955 - The Chicago Defender publishes photographs of Till's corpse.
September 19, 1955 - Jury selection begins in Sumner, Mississippi, the county seat of Tallahatchie County. Blacks and white women are banned from serving. An all-white male jury made up of 9 farmers, 2 carpenters, and 1 insurance agent are selected.
Mamie Till Bradley departs Chicago's Midway Airport to attend the trial.
September 20, 1955 – State testimony begins in the Emmett Till Murder trial. More than seventy reporters and photographers crowd the small courtroom.
Judge Curtis Swango recesses the court to allow more witnesses to be found.
For the first time, local law enforcement, local NAACP leaders, and reporters (black and white) team up to locate sharecroppers who saw Milam's truck and overheard Emmett being beaten.
September 21, 1955 – Wright, while on the witness stand, stands up and points his finger at Milam and Bryant, openly accusing them of coming to his house and kidnapping Emmett.
The state presents three surprise witnesses, all African-Americans. They testify to either seeing Milam and others around the barn, or having heard whipping and hollering from inside the barn, the morning of the day Till was believed to be killed.
September 22, 1955 - The state rests in the Emmett Till Murder trial.
The defense begins presenting its witnesses. Carolyn Bryant testifies outside the presence of the jury. Sheriff Strider testifies that he thought the body pulled out of the river had been there "10-15 days," far too long to be that of Till. An embalmer testifies that the body was "bloated beyond recognition."
September 23, 1955 - The defense presents a series of character witnesses, and closing arguments are presented. After only 67-minutes of deliberating, the jury returns a "Not Guilty" verdict.
Press takes photos of Bryant and Milam smoking cigars and kissing their wives in celebration.
Wright and Willie Reed, another black witness for the prosecution, leave Mississippi and are smuggled to Chicago. Upon arrival Reed collapses, suffering a nervous breakdown.
September 26, 1955 - Newspapers around the world begin publishing articles calling the acquittal “a crime,” crying out against the racial injustices in the US.
September 30, 1955 – With the kidnapping charges still pending, Milam and Bryant are released on bail.
October 22, 1955 - The American Jewish Committee (New York) release a report, which quotes newspapers in six European countries, expressing shock and outrage over the Till verdict. They urge Congress to bolster Federal civil rights legislation.
November 9, 1955 - Wright and Reed return to testify before a Le Flore County grand jury in Greenwood, Mississippi. The grand jury refuses to indict Milam or Bryant for kidnapping and they are set free.
The events that followed
December 1, 1955 – One hundred days after Till's death, Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat to a white passenger on a city bus. "I thought of Emmett Till and I just couldn't go back." This launches the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott and the civil rights movement. The boycott lasts 381 days.
January 24, 1956 - Look magazine publishes an article written by Alabama journalist, William Bradford Huie, entitled The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi. Huie offers Bryant and Milam $4,000 to tell him why they killed Emmett Till. Milam confesses on the record.
August 29, 1957 - In part due to publicity about the Till case, Congress passes the first Civil Rights Act legislation since 1866.
March 19, 1962 - Bob Dylan records the song entitled, "The Death of Emmett Till." Dylan first preformed the song for a Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) benefit in February 1962. The song appears on the 2010 album, "The Bootleg Series Vol. 9- the Witmark Demos 1962-1964."
May 25, 1964 – Griffin v. The School Board (Brown II) ruling prevented the closure of public schools on the sole basis of race in order to incentivize the attendance of segregated private schools.
December 31, 1980 - John W. Milam dies of cancer at age 61.
November 11, 1989 – Brown v. The Board of Education (Brown III) is reopened, at the state level, ending open enrollment policy.
September 1, 1994 - Roy Bryant dies of cancer at age 63.
February 1997 – Award winning Chicago playwright, David Barr III, is introduced to Mamie Till through the Chicago theatre community. Shortly thereafter, they begin to collaborate on writing the play, The State of Mississippi vs. Emmett Till.
Sept 5, 1999 - The Face of Emmett Till (under its original title, The State of Mississippi vs. Emmett Till) premiers at Pegasus Players Theatre in Chicago.
January 6, 2003 – Mamie Till Mobley, a teacher and lifelong civil rights activist, dies of heart failure at the age of 81.
May 10, 2005 - US Department of Justice reopens the Emmett Till murder case.
June 1, 2005 - Federal authorities exhume Emmett’s body. DNA tests, for the first time, confirm the identity of the body in the casket. The body is taken for its first autopsy.
February 2007 - A Leflore County jury, composed mostly of African-Americans, finds no credible evidence to support the claims of Keith A. Beauchamp, a documentary film producer, that up to 14 people were involved in the Till kidnapping and murder. The US Justice Department closes their investigation.
April 5, 2007 - Leslie Milam, a relative of Bryant and Milam, confesses to a pastor on his deathbed regarding his participation in the murder of Emmett Till.
May 30, 2007 - The FBI releases the autopsy report.
July 10, 2009 - Police investigators discover the Burr Oak Cemetery is still in possession of Till's original glass-topped casket. Cemetery workers had stashed it in a dilapidated shed, where it was rusting and animals lived inside it. Money raised by the cemetery to have the coffin restored were pocketed by the cemetery president, resulting in his arrest along with the other cemetery workers.
August 27, 2009 - The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture acquires the casket.
September 24, 2016 - The Smithsonian display of the casket opens to the public. President Obama is in attendance at the opening.