Cousin of Emmett Till reflects on beginning of civil rights movement in America

The family of Emmett Till is speaking out after his accuser recanted her statement that Till raped her.
The family of Emmett Till is speaking out after his accuser recanted her statement that Till raped her.

New developments in the lynching of a black teen back in the 1950’s are prompting the family of Emmett Till to reflect on a painful chapter in history. Recently, one of Till’s cousins visited the Valley. Dorothy Parker-Jarrett says her cousin’s lynching along with Rosa Parks’s refusal to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in Alabama sparked the civil rights movement. More than 60 years later, she says America still has a lot to learn.

The family of Emmett Till is speaking out after his accuser recanted her statement that Till raped her.
The family of Emmett Till is speaking out after his accuser recanted her statement that Till raped her.

“It’s 1955 all over again,” Parker-Jarrett said.

Parker-Jarrett says modern society mirrors much of Jim Crow society. Her first cousin Emmett Till was lynched amid rape accusations in 1955. It took his accuser more than half a century to recant her claims.

“I can only imagine the burden that she’s carried all these years knowing that she lied,” Parker-Jarrett said about Carolyn Bryant, who brought claims against Till more than 60 years ago.

Parker-Jarrett says routine lynchings and other slights against minorities finally came to a boiling point on December 1, 1955.

“It wasn’t that [Rosa Parks] was tired from working as a seamstress all day,” Till’s cousin explained. “She was tired of the injustices.”

Parker-Jarrett says the Montgomery bus boycott was the catalyst of the civil rights movement. She proposes that society today should take notice of the past’s non-violent approach.

“The only way we’ll see any real change is through us all coming from a place of love, loving one another,” Parker-Jarrett said.

As a school principal, Parker-Jarrett also advocates change through education.

“It is imperative that we work as a country together to improve the public education system,” Parker-Jarrett said. “Because let’s face it. Over 90% of children are educated in the public school system.”

She believes many young people ignore some of the important lessons about history — lessons that could keep them from repeating a tragic past.

“Our history is rich, and I want the young people to be proud of their history everyday, not just the month of February.”

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