Senate lawmakers have passed a bill to posthumously award Emmett Till, who was abducted and killed by White supremacists in 1955, and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, the Congressional Gold Medal, the U.S. Congress’ highest civilian honor.
The bill — which was first introduced in September of 2020 by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.Y., and Richard Burr, R-N.C. — passed with unanimous consent, and calls for the posthumous presentation of the medals in commemoration of Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley, after which they are to be given to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
“More than six decades after his murder, I am proud to see the Senate pass long-overdue legislation that would award the Congressional Gold Medal to both Emmett and Mamie Till-Mobley in recognition of their profound contributions to our nation,” Booker said in a statement Tuesday.
Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Chicago native, was kidnapped, brutally beaten and killed in the summer of 1955 in Money, Miss., where he was visiting his uncle.
Following his death, Mamie Till-Mobley demanded an open casket during his funeral so the more than 50,000 attendees could see the violence her son was subjected to while a graphic photograph of her deceased son in the coffin helped galvanize activists who were working for civil rights, Booker’s office said.
Asked why she she wanted an open casket, Mamie Till-Mobley famously responded: “The whole nation had to bear witness to this.”
Mamie Till-Mobley then spent the rest of her life seeking justice for her son. She died in 2003.
“The courage and activism demonstrated by Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, in displaying to the world the brutality endured by her son helped awaken the nation’s conscience, forcing Americans to reckon with its failure to address racism and the glaring injustices that stem from such hatred,” Booker said.
The Congressional Gold Medal has been awarded to dozens as a sign of its “highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions,” according to the U.S. House of Representatives’ website.
Last month, the Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to the 13 U.S. servicemembers who were killed in Afghanistan during August’s evacuation of U.S. citizens and Afghan nationals.