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US Congress to Posthumously Honor Murdered Teen Emmett Till

The unanimous vote awarded Till and his mother, both civil rights icons, the Congressional Gold Medal.

The United States House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill to posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to Emmett Till, the Chicago teenager killed in a racially motivated attack in the 1950s, and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley.

The bill, which passed the Senate in January, is meant to honor Till and his mother, who had insisted on an open-casket funeral to demonstrate the brutality of their son’s murder, with the highest civilian honor being grants Congress.

The medal will be presented to the National Museum of African American History, where it will be displayed near the casket in which Till was buried.

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Till was kidnapped, tortured, and killed in 1955 after witnesses said he whistled at a white woman in a grocery store in rural Mississippi, a violation of the racist social codes of the South at the time.

Four days later, he was dragged out of bed at his great-uncle’s house in the pre-dawn hours and kidnapped. His murder galvanized the US civil rights movement after Till’s mother insisted on opening the coffin and Jet magazine published photos of his brutalized body.

The Senate bill was introduced by Democrat Cory Booker and Republican Richard Burr. The House version of the legislation is sponsored by Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush, who also introduced a bill to issue a commemorative postage stamp honoring Mamie Till-Mobley. She died in 2003.

“The courage and activism shown by Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, in showing the world the brutality suffered by her son helped raise the nation’s conscience, forcing America to reckon with its failure to address the racism and the flagrant injustices that stem from such hatred,” Booker said in a statement after the Senate passed the bill.

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Congress has been awarding the medals since 1776, and past winners include civil rights icons like Rosa Parks, the Little Rock Nine, and Jackie Robinson. The appointment comes months after President Joe Biden signed into law the first anti-lynching legislation, bearing Till’s name.

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As of March of this year, Congress had failed to pass such legislation nearly 200 times, beginning with a bill introduced in 1900 by North Carolina Rep. George Henry White, the only black member of Congress at the time.

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