Emmett Till's Cousin Continues Her Family's Search For Justice

Feb 4, 2019

One night in 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was visiting his family in Mississippi when he was kidnapped by a gang of white men and killed after he whistled at a white woman in a grocery store.


The two men behind the crime were eventually acquitted by an all-white jury.

But the pictures of Emmett Till’s body during his open-casket funeral sparked outrage across the country and fueled the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.



Deborah Watts was just a toddler when her cousin Emmett was murdered.  


Today, she is the director and president of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation, a group seeking justice for Emmett over 60 years later.


Watts sits down with GPB's Leah Fleming to discuss her family's story and the powerful memory of Emmett's mother that still inspires her today.



Deborah Watts, director and president of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation.
Credit GPB

Last year, the Justice Department reopened an inquiry into the 64-year-old case of Emmett’s death, which is still under investigation.  


In 2016, Congress passed the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act, which added amendments to an earlier bill introduced by Atlanta Congressman John Lewis.