How long? Not long
How long? Very long!
The Civil War ended in 1865. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was passed to protect and guarantee the rights of freed slaves.
In August of 1955, a 14 year old boy from Chicago, Emmet Till, was visiting his family near Money, Mississippi. He and some cousins went to buy a treat at the Bryant Grocery Store and, while there, he encountered a 21 year old white woman, Carolyn Bryant, the clerk. He was accused of whistling at her. Emmet was a stutterer and his mother had taught him to whistle to help his stuttering.
That night, he was taken from his grandfather's house at night to "teach him a lesson" by Carolyn's husband, Ray Bryant and J.R. Milan. He was brutalized and tortured to death and thrown in the Tallahatchie River. They used barbed wire and a heavy gin fan to drown his body.
But the body was discovered and his brave mother demanded that her son's broken body be returned to Chicago to an open casket so that "all the world could see what they did to my son."
This event became a national outrage and is considered to be one of the beginnings of modern day Civil Rights Movement.
We went to the town of Glendora, population 300, where we met black mayor Johnny Thomas. He has worked tirelessly to revitalize the town and to tell the story of Emmet Till in a museum there. Ironically, his father was one of four black men who were forced to dispose of Emmet's body and destroy evidence of the event.
The trial of Milam and Bryant took place at the Courthouse in Sumner. An all white male jury found them not guilty but two weeks later they sold their story to Look Magazine, admitting they did in fact commit the murder.
As we toured the Courthouse today, we received a copy of a resolution presented to Emmett Till's family in 2007; in it the citizens of the County asked for forgiveness and gave a promise to nurture reconciliation and ensure justice for all.
Later we learned about Fanny Lou Hamer and her efforts to gain voting rights which included her attendance at the 1964 Democratic Convention (where she encountered Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale). "All my life I've been sick and tired. Now I am sick and tired of being sick and tired."
At the Tutwiler Clinic we met Dr. Ann Brooks, a Catholic nun. She started this free clinic in 1983 and has given her life to the physical, social and spiritual needs of this poor area. A gift of medical supplies from the Fairview Foundation in Minneapolis was presented by Steve Obaid.
Tomorrow we turn toward home. The impact of this journey and the images and stories of these brave people give us energy to: "Keep on keepin' on" toward freedom for all.