Cousin of Emmett Till: History is not history unless its true.

mcneir | 4/5/2012, 7 a.m.

Its an interesting thing about "history." Sometimes as stories are told, others add portions to the tale until they eventually seem to take on a life of their own. The story becomes more sensationalized, more exciting and for the most part, just plain wrong. One tale from America' recent history in which fact and fiction have clearly blurred together is the story of Emmett Till a young man from Chicago, whose trip to the South in the summer of 1955 turned to tragedy and his eventual murder. Five decades after his accused kidnappers and murderers were acquitted by an all-White jury of Mississippi natives, federal authorities finally reopened the case. It was hoped that they would finally get the facts straight and the real story told. With that in mind, Simeon Wright, the cousin of Emmett Till and an eyewitness to all of the events that transpired leading up to Till's abduction, decided to break his silence after many years and set the record straight. Wright, 68, now lives with his wife of 38 years in Countryside, Illinois a western suburb of Chicago. He says he vividly remembers the events that led to the kidnapping and murder of his cousin, Emmett Till, as if it were only yesterday. For years he has remained silent, reading texts and watching documentaries which as he says, "were distortions of the real story." Now he is on a one-man mission, speaking to youth groups across the country, discussing his published memoirs and talking with historians anyone who might benefit from hearing the truth. In his book, Simeons Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till, he shares his tragic, firsthand account of mans inhumanity to man and how that one night changed his life forever.

Summer in the South dreams turn to nightmares

During the 1950s, it was common for Black families who had recently left places like Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and the Carolinas for greater economic and educational opportunities in the North, to return from their new homes of Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland during summer vacation. Such was the case for young Emmett Louis Till, a 14-year-old, Black boy and resident of Chicago who, after hearing that his cousin Wheeler Parker, also from Chicago, would be returning to the familys farm in Money, Mississippi, was able to convince his mother Mamie Till Mobley to allow him to tag along for a short stay with his great-uncle, Mose Wright. But life in the South, with its Jim Crow laws and blatant racism, was quite different for Blacks than it was in the North. And children were advised. as was Till, to mind their manners with whites. Simeon Wright, the youngest of 12 children and Mose Wrights baby boy, was one of the many cousins that would welcome Till upon his arrival. And for the first few days, Tills summer junket went along fairly predictable trips to the local store for candy, evening walks through cotton fields and a lot of pranks being played on family members and friends. And as the story goes, it was during one such trip, to Bryants Grocery and Meat Market, that Till would commit the unimaginable he whistled at the wife of the store owner. Here, according to Simeon Wright, is the beginning of what would become a long list of inaccuracies that have become part of the Till story. There were certainly concerns about Emmetts visiting us. Wright said. His mother did not trust him coming to visit us because he was unaware of the way life was in the South, especially for Blacks. Young people coming from the North really did not have a clue they didnt understand Jim Crow laws. But even we as children who lived in the South believed that while Jim Crow was meant to keep Black folks down and could often lead those who violated the codes to be beaten or jailed, we never thought it could be the cause of ones death not at least until Emmett was murdered. Then it became a very different world for all of us.