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Remembering a teen whose murder fueled a movement

Sixty years after the brutal killing of Emmett Till, 60 Minutes revisits two eyewitness accounts

Today marks 60 years since 14-year-old Emmett Till was murdered after reportedly making an innocent, but fatal, mistake: Whistling at a white woman in Mississippi.

In 2004, 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley interviewed two of Till's cousins, who witnessed what happened and recount it in the clip above.

otemmetttill2004.jpg
Emmett Till, 1955.
Family Photo

Simeon Wright vividly remembers the moment Till, who was visiting from Chicago, whistled at 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant, a white woman behind the counter at Bryant's Meat Market and Grocery Store in Money, Mississippi.

"When he whistled, we all - we ran," he said. "We jumped in the car and we got out of there. "

"Just because he whistled?" asked Bradley.

"Oh, yes," Wright said. "If you're a kid and you throw a rock and break a window, you don't hang around to see what's going to happen."

But three days later, Carolyn Bryant's husband, Roy, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, came looking for Till in the middle of the night.

Wheeler Parker, another cousin of Till's, was asleep in the next room. "Fear just gripped me because in my heart, I say, 'I'm getting ready to die.' And at 16, I wasn't ready to die. And I could just feel like the whole bed was shaking."

They passed over Parker, but found Till in the next room and ordered him to get out of bed, get dressed and come with them. Three days later, Till's badly mangled corpse was found in the waters of the Tallahatchie River.

Emmett Till's mother insisted on an open casket and allowed her son to be photographed so the world could see his battered face. And the world did see. Till's murder helped ignite protests across the country and inspired generations of civil rights activists.

In September 1955, an all-white jury acquitted Bryant and Milam, who confessed a few months later, knowing they could not be retried. To this day, no one has served time for the murder of Emmett Till.