In August 1955, Emmett Till, a joyous 14-year-old African-American boy, left his hometown of Chicago to visit family in Mississippi. The truth about his subsequent kidnapping, torture, and murder shocked America’s conscience — and helped galvanize the civil rights movement. The quick acquittal of Till’s murderers, who later admitted their guilt in a magazine interview, symbolized the fundamental state of racial injustice in Mississippi as well as the United States.
As recent events have reminded us, this horrifying legacy lives on, as does the struggle for equal treatment under the law. Recognizing injustices past and present is essential to building a fairer legal system that protects the rights of all citizens. In 2018, led by Orange County counsel Nikki Buffa, a team of Latham lawyers began working with the Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ), and the Emmett Till Interpretive Center to advocate for national recognition and protection of historical sites connected to the murder of Till to provide future generations a place to learn about this critical part of civil rights history. Our efforts have focused on organizing support for the inclusion of these sites in the National Park System, which is currently studying a number of potential sites related to civil rights history in Mississippi.
In addition to Nikki Buffa, the Latham team included partners Stacey VanBelleghem and Janice Schneider; associates Samantha Jackson, John Jefferson, Christopher Randall, Kumar Ravula, Danit Tal, Peter Viola, and Julia Waterhous; and paralegal Joseph Grochowski.
We were honored to be recognized recently for this work at MCJ’s virtual gala. To learn more about the Till project, watch this short video: