President Obama Signs Emmett Till Bill to Reopen Unsolved Civil Rights Cases

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama signed the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes bill that will allow the FBI to expand its investigations from cold cases before 1970 to include those that occurred before 1980.

Named after Emmett Till, the 14-year-old boy from Chicago who was taken from his bed in the middle of night, beat and shot by two white men for allegedly whistling at a white woman, the Justice Department is being encouraged to reach out to “activists, advocates, and academics working on these issues.”

Since 1989, authorities across the U.S. have reopened and prosecuted civil rights cold cases, leading to 24 convictions, beginning with the 1994 conviction of Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 assassination of Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers. Beckwith received a life sentence in prison, where he died, USA Today reports.


The bill was introduced in 2005 by activist Alvin Sykes who vowed to Till’s mother Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley that he would reopen the case. Originally her son’s killers were acquitted by an all white jury for their crimes. The case was reopened in 2004 and closed three years later when a jury decided not to indict Carolyn Bryant, the woman who accused Emmett Till for whistling at her.