In August 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was in a small town called Money, Mississippi, with his relatives for a quick family visit. During the visit, Till broke one of segregations “unwritten rules” and “whistled” at a 21-year-old white woman, Carolyn Bryant, at her store — simply to impress his friends (Bryant has now reveled in an upcoming book that she made that encounter up).
If you followed the Emmett Till story, you pretty much know what happens next: Word went around town about the incident, 2 men (her husband and a friend of the family) picked Till up late night at their uncle’s home, then Till was found later with a battered image that eventually lead to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 60s.
(To prove Till’s connection to the movement: Martin Luther King Jr, a prominent member of the movement, first gained notoriety from the Montgomery Bus Boycotts in 1955-56. The bus boycott itself happened due to the arrest of Rosa Parks, a local resident who refused to move to the back of the bus due to the local segregation laws at the time. Rosa revealed later on that the reason she didn’t move the back of the bus was because she vividly remembered the case of — you guessed it — Emmett Till).
However, one thing that you probably didn’t know is that one of the 2 men who picked Till up and murdered him, Roy Bryant, might be uncle of current Mississippi governor, Phil Bryant.
How this came to our attention
One of our readers sent us the tip, from an article written while back, of a rally that took place in Mississippi in mid-2016. The rally was to protest the confederate flag, a symbol that represented the days of the segregated “Jim Crow” south, after the Dylan Roof shootings that took nine black lives in Charleston, S.C. in June 2015.
During the rally, protesters made note of their governor Phil Bryant’s inability to take the confederate “emblem” away from their state flag — they are the last U.S. state to directly feature a confederate symbol on their flag. One of attorneys even said there were “12 bills filed in the state Legislature to take away the flag — all 12 bills died in committee without a floor or house vote”.
It was in that rally where one of the residents, Evelina Carthan, pointed out:
“I’m the cousin of Emmett Till. It was Phil Bryant’s uncle (Roy Bryant) that admitted to murdering Emmett Till. So I’m not surprised by the governor’s reaction to all this because of his family history. It is in his blood.”
Anyone can be the cousin, family member, or relative of a notorious person. It doesn’t make them a dangerous person — it’s not their fault that they are family members of notorious figures.
However, it’s in the actions of that individual which would either connect, or separate them from their “past”. In this case, Mississippi governor Bryant’s actions (and the appointment as the governor of that state) seems to indicate that he hasn’t completely separated himself from the legacy of his past. And it’s unfortunate.
So as you remember that segregation “died” in the 60’s with the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, never forget that many family members that descended from that period of time still hold positions of legal power today.
Even if it is the governor.
Editors note: Governor Phil Bryant’s wikipedia page has made note of this fact (in the Personal section), but keeps getting deleted. We’ve counted four (4) separate instances that this happened. So the jury is still out if this is 100% accurate. For any of you that know for sure, please send us the news tip.