Students on a social justice trip “fix” vandalized Emmett Till sign with encouraging words

June 28, 2017 1:11 pm Last Updated: June 28, 2017 1:11 pm


After yet another Emmett Till memorial sign was vandalized, a group of teens took it upon themselves to provide a temporary solution to the problem.

The teens, according to KMOV, were traveling around the country with Cultural Leadership, a nonprofit that teaches students how to become tomorrow’s civil rights leaders. They stopped at an Emmett Till memorial in Mississippi and to their disbelief saw that the sign had been defaced. And it wasn’t just a tiny scrape across a photo or smudges of ink across the text: the sign, which is along the Mississippi Freedom Trail, was illegible.

“I couldn’t fathom that someone would disrespect this man and his death and we know he died unjustly,” Promise Mitchell, a student on the trip, told KMOV.

The students knew they had to do something. So, they took out some paper they had brought along with them and got to work. Once the students were done, the sign, which is near the now-closed grocery store where 14-year-old Emmett Till was accused of whistling at a white woman, was covered in messages of hope, hand-drawn pictures of Emmett, and facts about the teen that the students believed were important.

“Rest in Power Emmett Till”


Allan Hammons, whose company erected the sign, told The Clarion-Ledger that this is the first time he’s ever seen this type of vandalism on the sign, and while vandalism has been going on “since the beginning of time”, he still can’t believe someone would do such a thing.

Davis Houck, a member of the Emmett Till Memory Project, shared a similar opinion stating, “This time, it’s more sinister because it’s carefully thought out. It’s not a defacing, but an erasing.”

In August 1955, Emmett Till was accused of whistling at 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant while at a grocery store. Emmett was subsequently kidnapped and brutally murdered by Bryant’s husband and brother-in-law. Although the two men were arrested, an all-white jury acquitted both men.

“You can destroy this marker, but you cannot destroy history.”

Class 12 visited the historical marker by Bryant's Grocery Store, where Emmett Till visited shortly before being murdered. The marker had been defaced, and Class 12 decided to do something about it. You can erase a sign, but you can't erase our history. You can't erase a movement. And you can't temper the determination of these changemakers.

Posted by Cultural Leadership on Monday, June 26, 2017


The Mississippi Department of Transportation responded to Cultural Leadership’s plea for help on Twitter to fix the sign, and though they say the sign has been removed for repairs, many agree that more should be done than simply fixing the sign.