Emmett Till's family met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions Tuesday to stress the importance of the 14 year old’s namesake bill that gives the Department of Justice jurisdiction to reopen unsolved civil rights crimes.
Till was kidnapped and brutally lynched by two white men who accused him of whistling at a white woman in 1955. His bill, the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act specifically focuses on civil rights crime that occurred before 1980.
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Activist Alvin Sykes, who first spearheaded that bill over a decade ago, was set to meet with Sessions. But he decided to also invite Deborah Watts, Till’s cousin and and co-founder of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation, as well as other family members.
“We want it to be a priority and we wanted to let [Sessions] know how important it is that this bill is,” Watts told MSNBC after the meeting. “The implementation of the bill needs to take place. There are other families out there that have no justice, they don’t know the truth about some of their loved ones that have been murdered. There’s been no adjudication and no answers.”
Though she says the meeting went well, it is still not clear whether Sessions will make these types of crimes a priority.
ESSENCE has reported extensively about the implications of Jeff Sessions' position as the nation’s top prosecutor. His past is littered with examples of racist practices, including blocking black judges as Senator, and calling the NAACP “unamerican.”
“When Coretta Scott King takes time to prepare a nine-page letter expressing grave concerns about your civil rights record, you have a real problem,”Kristen Clarke, the executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, wrote in an essay for ESSENCE.
Clarke was speaking of the letter King wrote against Sessions when he was nominated and later denied the right to become a federal judge 20 years ago.
But Watts, Till's cousin, appears satisfied with how the meeting went: “With this situation, I felt very good about it,” she said. “I know that there’s been concerns and of course I can’t say that I didn’t have some of those concerns myself."
"But we left with very clear commitment, if you will, regarding the ability to work with the Justice Department as we move forward,” she added.