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Eyewitness of Emmett Till's Kidnapping & Till's Cousin, Simeon Wright Passes Away

Photo courtesy Youtube/National Museum of African-American History and Culture

An eye witness to the kidnapping of Emmett Till, Simeon Wright, passed away at the age of 75 after a battle with bone cancer. Till, a native of Chicago, was kidnapped and killed in Money, Mississippi in 1955 after whistling at a white woman. Wright, Till’s cousin was in the same room at the time of the abduction, and spoke about the horrific experience and its effect on the civil rights movement during a panel at the Overby Center back in 2010.
Wright was 12 years old at the time, and Till was 14 years old. Wright was 68-years old when he was at the Overby Center to discuss his new book Simeon’s Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till, and while it had been more than 50 years since that night, Wright still remembers the room and how it all happened. He recounted two men with a pistol ordering him to go back to bed as they took Till from the home.
“There’s not enough words in the English language to describe that feeling; the grief, the fear, the anger and how my mother was reacting to all of this,” Wright said.
In a trial that took only one hour, the jury found both J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant to be innocent. A few months after the trial concluded, and protected by double jeopardy, the two men confessed during an interview with Look magazine.  
“I was 12 years-old, I see cowboys and bad men get arrested and they go to jail, and I’m thinking that’s what is going to happen to these guys,” Wright said. “We did what we could to bring these men to justice, the reporters (there were good reporters and bad reporters). The judge did what he could, Mr. Chapman [the prosecutor] did what he could.” 
Till’s murder and the trial began a new dialogue in the South and noted journalist Bill Rose spoke about the case’s role in the civil rights movement during the panel discussion in 2010. 
“The Emmett Till case helped to ignite the civil rights movement,” Rose said. “Rosa Parks said that she was so moved, that when she was on that bus and they asked her to move to the back of the bus, she couldn’t do it because she thought of Emmett Till, and she had to make a statement.”
“I didn’t realize it would spread all over the world,” Wright added. “It changed our attitude. Prior to that, there was no resistance. I had the thought ‘they are going to kill us anyway’ we might as well resist. That sparked us to stand up and say ‘you are going to treat us like human beings.
The events surrounding the life, death and injustice of Emmett Till were enough to fill Wright with spite, but he wouldn’t allow that to happen.
“I’m not bitter, but I’ll never forget it,” Wright said. “I found at the age of 22 that hatred would kill you or get you killed.”
Watch the full panel discussion from October 2010 below: 

Steven Gagliano is the managing editor of HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at steven.gagliano@hottytoddy.com

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