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Emmett Till Memorial Statue Unveiled in Mississippi: 'Affirmation That Our Lives Matter'

People 10/22/2022 Glenn Garner

Scott Olson/Getty © Provided by People Scott Olson/Getty

Emmett Till's legacy has become a permanent fixture in Greenwood, Miss.

Hundreds gathered Friday as the city dedicated a nine-foot bronze statue of Till in the downtown Rail Spike Park, about 40 miles south of the city where the 14-year-old Black teen was kidnapped, beaten and lynched on Aug. 28, 1955, becoming a catalyst for the American civil rights movement.

"This is a great day as we take another leap forward in recognizing the life and legacy of Emmett Till," Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., told ABC News. Parker. Parker is Till's only remaining family member and saw him the night he was kidnapped.

RELATED: Emmett Till Was Lynched, and His Family Was Denied Justice: All About the Murder that Shocked the Nation

"As so many people are determined to erase our history, we are blessed to have so many more allies in the struggle to keep our story alive," Parker added. "This statue is affirmation that our lives matter."

Commissioned by Utah sculptor Matt Glenn, the towering statue features a likeness of Till's iconic black-and-white portrait, wearing a button-down shirt and tie while tipping his hat.

Getty Emmett Till © Provided by People Getty Emmett Till

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"I feel that when young people ask me what the memory of Emmett Till is, we have this statue as a memory," said state Sen. David Jordan, who represents Greenwood and allocated $150,000 in state funding for the statue. "He liberated all Black people for all that he sacrificed."

The statue's unveiling comes after a bulletproof historical marker was erected in 2019 at the site where his body was found, according to NBC News. The previous memorial was a lightning rod for racist attacks, having been vandalized and defaced with bullet holes on multiple occasions.

Born and raised in Chicago, Till was visiting family members in Money, Miss. when shopkeeper Carolyn Bryant Donham, a 21-year-old white woman, claimed that he whistled and then grabbed her inside her family's grocery store on Aug. 24, 1955.

Orion Pictures © Provided by People Orion Pictures

Several days later, the teenager was kidnapped from his relative's home in the middle of the night before he was beaten and lynched. His body was found three days later in the Tallahatchie River, weighted down by a metal fan tied around his neck with barbed wire.

A month later, Bryant's husband, Roy Bryant, and Bryant's half-brother, J.W. Milam, were acquitted following an hour-long deliberation by an all-white, all-male jury. They later confessed to the murder in a 1956 interview, when they no longer faced legal repercussions.

Till's accuser recanted parts of her original accusation in 2017. After an unserved arrest warrant was found for Bryant — who is now 88 — in a Greenwood courthouse basement in June, a Mississippi grand jury declined to indict her in August.

RELATED VIDEO: Black Lives Matter Mural Outside Trump Tower Defaced Days After Installation

The true story of Emmett's life, death and his mother Mamie Till-Mobley's ensuing fight for justice is the subject of the new biopic Till, which is now in select theaters until its Oct. 28 release nationwide.

In January, the Senate passed legislation to posthumously award Emmett and Mamie with Congressional Gold Medals, the country's highest civilian honor. President Joe Biden signed the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act into law in March.

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