By: Davis Houck
On Wednesday evening, August 24, Emmett Till, along with several cousins and friends, drove from the East Money Church of God in Christ, where they’d dropped off Moses and Elizabeth Wright for services, 3 miles west to Money.
Moses insisted to his son, Maurice, not to drive to town, but the group headed there anyway. In the car were brothers, Maurice and Simeon Wright, brother and sister, Roosevelt and Ruth Crawford, cousins Wheeler and Thelton Parker, and Emmett.
The crowded 1946 Ford pulled into Money around 7:30 pm; the original destination was not the Bryant Grocery and Meat Market, but all of the other stores in Money were closed for the evening. Spotting a checkers game in progress out in front of the Bryant store, the group of 7 teenagers stopped by to chat, parking their car south of the store, between Ben Roy’s Gas Station and the grocery.
After several of his cousins made purchases, Emmett eventually went into the store. Accounts differ as to whether Emmett was dared to go in to see/talk to the “pretty white woman” working the counter, 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant, or whether he entered the store for other reasons. What we do know is that he went in by himself. Furthermore, while it’s unclear what exactly transpired between Emmett and Carolyn, someone came in to remove Emmett from the store, Carolyn followed them out of the store to possibly retrieve a gun from a nearby car, such was her agitation, and then Emmett let loose with a loud wolf whistle directed at her. Immediately did the gaggle of teens run to the Wright car and race back home; racial protocol had been badly violated and everyone knew it. Thus is the Bryant store ground zero in the Emmett Till saga.
Roy and Carolyn Bryant purchased the store in early 1954, and traded largely with local blacks who worked in the adjacent cotton fields. The Money postmistress lived upstairs, while the Bryants lived in the back of the store on the main floor. Following the acquittal of Milam and Bryant, though, locals boycotted the store and forced the Bryants to list the property for sale in October 1955. While the couple soon moved to Texas in a forced exile, the store continued as a grocery well into the 1980s. As of 2015 the store is owned by the Tribble family; it has been for sale for years. In 2011 two white Mississippi philanthropists put up the money to create a sign commemorating the events that transpired here, and thus began the Mississippi Freedom Trail. While that sign is littered with errors, and it sits on a right-of-way owned not by the Tribbles but by Leflore County, it highlights one of the defining events of the modern civil rights movement.