WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government has reopened an investigation into the 1955 killing of black teenager Emmett Till in Mississippi, saying it had discovered new information in the case, which helped spark the nation’s civil rights movement.
The report, sent by the U.S. Department of Justice to Congress earlier this year as part of an annual review of unsolved civil rights crimes, was first reported by the Associated Press earlier on Thursday.
In it, the department said it had revived the probe but could give no additional information because the matter was ongoing.
In August 1955, Till was beaten, shot and mutilated in Money, Mississippi, four days after it was alleged that the black 14-year-old from Chicago had flirted with a white woman.
The woman’s husband, Roy Bryant, and J.W. Milam were charged with Till’s murder, but the two white men were later acquitted of the crime by an all-white jury. The pair later confessed in a paid magazine interview to abducting and killing the teenager. The two men have since died, in 1994 and 1981, respectively.
“We are happy that they got new evidence to reopen the case. It’s just kind of sad that it’s taken so long,” Charles Hampton, president of the Mississippi NAACP, said in a telephone interview on Thursday.
The federal case regarding Till was closed in 2007 after the Justice Department had earlier concluded it could no longer prosecute the case and referred it to the district attorney in Mississippi. A grand jury in the southern U.S. state declined to issue new charges, the department said.
The AP report said a cousin of Till’s, Deborah Watts, was not aware that the murder case was reopened.
Media interest in the case was revived in 2017 with the publication of the book, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” which reportedly quotes the white woman in the case, Carolyn Bryant Donham, as admitting she had lied when she testified against Till.
(This version of the story fixes reference to year in paragraph four to 1955.)
Reporting by Susan Heavey and Bernie Woodall; additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Bernadette Baum