Defaced Emmett Till Historic Marker


Defaced historical and memorial marker from the Emmett Till Interpretive Center in Sumner, Mississippi. The marker is silver metal, painted purple with white lettering. The sign is rectangular with a bell-like curve at the top. Inside of the curved space, there is a circle with a white magnolia flower at the center. The paint is peeling and the flower is obscured by bullet holes that have passed through the sign from both sides. The title, “River Site,” is centered in larger font just below the image of the flower. The word “Site” is illegible due to bullet holes. Below the title, in smaller, centered font, the sign reads: “This is the site where Till’s body was removed from the river. It was then taken to Greenwood, MS. Then the body was sent back to Money, MS for burial. Via a phone call from Till’s mother, ‘not to bury her son,’ the body was then taken back to Greenwood. The body was then sent to Tutwiler, MS for final preparation to be sent to Chicago, IL.” The sign’s surface is disfigured by hundreds of pellet gun and bullet holes. Dozens of larger bullet holes have fully pierced the metal and stripped the purple paint and white letters from the sign, leaving a ring of bright silver metal around each hole, and making it difficult to read the words. 

The Emmett Till Memorial Commission (ETMC) donated the River Site historic marker to share Emmett Till’s Mississippi story with national and global audiences. The defaced marker speaks to anti-black violence past and present, and to ETMC’s decades-long determination to recognize this history. The ETMC was founded in 2006 by Jerome G. Little, Tallahatchie County’s first Black President of the Board of Supervisors. Little and six other Black men, known as the Magnificent Seven organized in 1977 to seek public office and provide clean water, housing, voting rights, education, and healthcare to Tallahatchie County’s Black residents. They sued the county three times to procure Black voting representation in the county. After gaining political office, Little connected Black history to the effort to secure human rights and formed the Commission. In 2007, ETMC secured a public apology for the Tallahatchie County’s miscarriage of justice in trial of Till’s murders. In 2008, they erected several historic plaques across the county marking sites Emmett’s kidnapping and lynching. These markers as well as a state historic marker commemorating Till continue to be defaced with acid, stolen, and riddled with bullets.

This River Site marker is the second of four markers placed at this site by the Tallahatchie River. The first marker was stolen, the second marker was riddled with 317 bullet holes, and the third marker was shot up in 2019 and captured media attention when three University of Mississippi students from the Kappa Alpha fraternity posed with rifles in front of the sign. The ETMC installed a bullet-proof marker in 2019. Within months, a security camera which captured images of a white supremacist rally at the site.

The bullet holes represent more than just random attacks. For many community members, these aggressions are an extension of the violence inflicted on Black people—in 1955 through the present. The Commission remains undeterred. As Little remarked in 2008 “I want to make sure that whoever did this knows that. . . . [e]very time [this sign is] taken down, it’s going back up.”

Members of ETMC and Till family friends and family co-curated an exhibition Reckoning with Remembrance: History, Injustice, and the Murder of Emmett Till in 2021.

Rekated: 1955-08-28

Associated Place: United States: Mississippi, Sumner

Classified: MemorialRacismMurderGeneral Subject Association: Jim CrowSegregationLynching and Racial Terror or PolicingAfrican AmericanAfrican American HistoryBlack Lives MatterCivil Rights MovementTerrorism


See more items in: Political and Military History: Political History, Civil Rights Collection, Government, Politics, and Reform


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of Emmett Till Interpretive Center

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2020.0077.01Accession Number: 2020.0077Catalog Number: 2020.0077.01

Object Name: marker, historicalObject Type: Site Marker

Physical Description: metal (overall material)magenta (overall color)Measurements: overall: with supports: 40 in x 52 in x 3 1/4 in; 101.6 cm x 132.08 cm x 8.255 cmoverall: sign: 40 in x 46 in x 3 1/4 in; 101.6 cm x 116.84 cm x 8.255 cm


Record Id: nmah_1986561

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