12:30 AM / Sunday November 27, 2022

30 Dec 2016

Emmett Till Bill reauthorized

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
December 30, 2016 Category: Stateside Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO:  Emmett Till

Will it spur more of an effort to solve civil rights murders than the original legislation?

By Frederick Lowe

Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from

President Barack Obama has signed legislation permanently reauthorizing a law that expands prosecution of civil rights-era murders after an earlier version of the law failed miserably to live up to expectations.

The President, Dec. 16, signed the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Bill of 2007, which expands the authority of the Department of Justice and FBI to investigate and prosecute race-based murders.

The legislation is named in honor of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Chicago boy who was kidnapped and murdered on Aug. 28, 1955,  in Money, Miss., by Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam for allegedly whistling at Carolyn Bryant, a White woman.

The teenager’s beaten and horribly mutilated body, tied to a heavy industrial fan, floated to the surface of the Tallahatchie River, where it was discovered by two boys swimming in the river.

An all-White male jury found Milam and Bryant not guilty, but the two admitted killing Till in a Jan. 24, 1956 interview with Look magazine for which they were paid. Bryant operated a store and it went out business after Blacks launched a boycott.

The current Emmett Till legislation was scheduled to expire on Sept. 30, 2017, the end of the government’s fiscal year.  The legislation was passed in 2008, after being introduced by Congressman John Lewis, a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement. Lewis’ bill limited investigations to violations that occurred before 1970.

The original legislation failed to live up to its promise, according to a U. S. Senate review of the law. There has been only one successful prosecution as result of the bill. The Senate also noted other challenges, such as the Fifth Amendment protection against double jeopardy, and a pre-1994 five year statute of limitations on federal criminal civil rights charges.

“Ultimately, a DOJ report stated that it is unlikely that any of the remaining cases would be prosecuted,” the Senate reported.

The Cold Case Justice Initiative of the DOJ last year closed 115 of the 126 cases on their list, often without pursuing potential witnesses or victims’ family members, the Senate said.

Last year, civil right activists testified before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, that the DOJ and the FBI have not done enough to solve the murders of civil rights workers in the 1940s, 50s and 60s despite the Emmett Till legislation.

The murders of Black men, women and children have been extensive and almost no perpetrators have been brought to justice.

The Equal Justice Initiatve, which is based in Montgomery, Ala., reported that nearly 4,000 Black men, Black women and Black children were lynched between 1877 and 1950.

Many lynching were extrajudicial, but others were either organized or encouraged by law enforcement officials.

Congress passed the expanded Emmett Till legislation on Dec. 13th. The legislation was introduced into the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Senate bill, S. 2854, and House bill, H. R. 5067, require the Department of Justice to reopen and review cases closed without an in-person investigation conducted by the DOJ or the FBI. The DOJ also must establish a task force to conduct a thorough investigation of Emmett Till Act cases.

“Perhaps most significantly to us is that the FBI will be required to travel to the communities to do their investigative work, not simply read over old files from a desk in Washington and make a couple phone calls,” said Janis McDonald, co-director of the Cold Case Justice Initiative, which is based at Syracuse University.

The DOJ must indicate the number of cases referred by a civil rights organization, an institution of higher education or a state or local law enforcement agency.  The bill also requires the DOJ to report the number of cases that resulted in federal charges, the date charges were filed and whether DOJ declined to prosecute or participate in an investigation of a referred case and any activity on reopened cases.

In addition, the law enforcement agencies must coordinate information sharing, hold accountable perpetrators or accomplices in unsolved civil rights murders and comply with Freedom Information Act requests.

The legislation also allows DOJ to award grants to civil rights organizations, institutions of higher education and other eligible entities for expenses associated with investigating murders under the Emmett Till Act.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Leave a Comment

Recent News


Lots of love and laughter as friends, family and loved ones gather at Positano Coast to celebrate Leah Fletcher

November 24, 2022

Tweet Share Pin Email Looking in retrospect. Celebrating Leah Fletcher By Monica Peters Sixty persons from near...


Mexico prosecutors issue arrest warrant, want U.S. suspect extradited to Mexico in death of Shanquella Robinson

November 25, 2022

Tweet Share Pin Email CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico (AP/SUN) — Mexican prosecutors have filed charges against a...

Week In Review

Biden admin to ask high court to take up student debt plan

November 24, 2022

Tweet Share Pin Email ABOVE PHOTO: Light illuminates part of the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill...


Georgia runoff: Why one Senate seat is crucial for Democrats

November 24, 2022

Tweet Share Pin Email ABOVE PHOTO: This combination of photos shows, Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., speaking to...


How to shop for the right Medicare plan and avoid costly mistakes

November 24, 2022

Tweet Share Pin Email BPT Inflation is putting the squeeze on all Americans, but no one is...

Color Of Money

Top financial to-dos to end the year strong and prepare for 2023

November 24, 2022

Tweet Share Pin Email BPT  The holidays are a time full of good cheer, but not necessarily...

The Philadelphia Sunday Sun Staff