River Site Sign #1: Sharkey Road Bridge

By: Dave Tell

This sign was placed here in April 2008 by the Emmett Till Memorial Commission (ETMC). The Commission raised over $15,000 to place eight of these signs in Tallahatchie County. This sign contains several inaccuracies.

First, there is the difficult issue of where, precisely, Till’s body was recovered. The ETMC erected a second “River Site” sign 2.3 miles south of this spot on the west side of River Road. They claim that this was the spot where Till’s body was recovered from the river. Early drafts of this sign have three different mileages: 2.3 miles, 2.6 miles, and 8.0 miles. Each of these options is intriguing.

First, consider the possibility that Till’s body was recovered 2.3 miles south of this spot, as the actual distance to the next sign suggests. This is the spot where the Black Bayou flows into the Tallahatchie. If, as many suggest, Till’s body was dumped into the Bayou from the old Second Street bridge south of Glendora, then the body could have floated the 1.8 miles from the Second Street bridge to the River Site sign 2.3 miles south of this spot.

Second, consider the possibility that the body was recovered 8 miles from this site. If you follow the river (not River Road) just shy of 8 miles, you come to the spot where, in 2006, the FBI determined that the body was recovered. This is an interesting site because it is located on a small stretch of the Tallahatchie River that dips into Leflore County before winding its way back into Tallahatchie County. If the body was recovered 8 miles south of this sign (as the FBI suggests) it means that the body was recovered in Leflore County—a possibility that virtually no one considered in 1955. If they had considered it, the trial would have been in Greenwood, the jury composition would have been very different, and a trial might have turned out differently.

Third, consider the possibility that this sign is correct, that the body was recovered 2.6 miles south of this spot on River Road. It is unclear why the ETMC eventually settled on this number, as there is nothing significant 2.6 miles south of here, and their own sign is located 2.3 miles south.

This sign is also marred by two other gross errors. First, it claims that the body was discovered on the land, adjacent to the Tallahatchie River. Second, it claims that the body was dumped there as a “warning to the black community.” Neither of these claims appear in any other narrative of Till’s death and their presence here is inexplicable. That Till was pulled from the water has long been one of the few uncontested facts of the case. Moreover, it is difficult to imagine what “black community” could have been the target of such a warning—after all, the body was dumped miles from a community of any sort.