High School Students ‘Repair’ Vandalized Civil Rights Memorial

"I was disappointed by the fact that even after his death people would still try to erase his history."

When a group of high school students traveling around the country to learn about the complicated history of civil rights and social justice in the U.S. firsthand arrived at the Emmett Till memorial in Money, Miss. what they found was not what they expected. Instead of a placard detailing the life and tragic death of Till, what the 24 students found was that almost all the biographical information about Till had been peeled or scratched off. The memorial to the 14-year-old African American boy who was kidnapped and lynched in 1955 was virtually blank.

"My initial reaction when I saw the Emmet Till sign defaced was that America still has a long way to go when dealing with race relations in our society," student Winston Waddell told A Plus. "I was disappointed by the fact that even after his death people would still try to erase his history."


The group had been traveling the country for almost three weeks through a St. Louis-based program called Cultural Leadership. They had traveled from New York to Washington, D.C. and had come to Mississippi to visit, amongst other historic landmarks, Bryant's Grocery, where Till encountered a white woman who later accused him of whistling at her. This accusation ultimately led to his death. 

Everything they had learned over the past three weeks urged the students to take action. They got out paper and pens and created their own memorial to Till that included facts and drawings. Waddell said he and his peers believed that "we should restore some of the history that was erased from the marker."

"You can destroy this marker, but you cannot destroy history," one wrote.

"It's not who killed him. It's what killed him," another added. 

The students taped their messages on the vandalized placard and then posed for a photo with the repaired sign before tweeting the images to the Mississippi Department of Transportation. 

"I hope others learn from our memorial that you can try to get rid of history with hate, but love from others will never allow history to be erased," Waddell said.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation responded on Twitter that the damage has been reported and it is working to fix the sign as fast as possible. 


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