Wright Family Residence

By: Davis Houck

On this small parcel of land nearly three miles east of Money and the Bryant Grocery and Meat Market, Moses Wright and his family sharecropped 25 acres of cotton on the Grover Frederick Plantation. While the family home was destroyed by a tornado in the 1980s, the Wrights lived in a relatively comfortable six-room house that had once been the residence of the Frederick family.

When Emmett arrived at the Wright residence in the early evening of Sunday, August 21, cotton bolls were exploding, waiting to be picked and then ginned. While the Wright family was used to working in the heat of the Delta summer, Emmett didn’t pick a great deal of cotton; instead, he helped Elizabeth Wright with the indoor chores. After their chores were finished, Simeon, cousin Wheeler Parker (also visiting from Chicago) and other members of the Wright family would cross Darfield Road (also known as Dark Ferry Road and Dark Fear Road) to cool off with a swim in Lake Never Fail. In the same lake Moses Wright would fish and hunt after the cotton crop was made.

But in 1955 the Wrights’ crop was never made. In the early morning hours of Sunday, August 28, a car approached the Wright house in the pitch black humid night; that car contained at least four people, two of whom were half-brothers J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant. It’s likely that one of the other occupants of the vehicle was a local black man who could navigate Darfield Road and find the Wright home. The fourth occupant, based on Moses Wright’s trial testimony, possessed a voice “lighter than a man’s,” who identified Emmett Till as the “Chicago boy.” Upon entering the home armed with flashlights and .45 caliber handguns—all the light bulbs were burned out—the men went from room to room looking for Till; they eventually found him in a bed sleeping next to Moses’ youngest son, Simeon, aged 12. While the Wrights pleaded with the men not to take Emmett, Milam barked orders for Elizabeth to get back in bed; Moses followed the kidnappers to the front porch and heard the positive identification of his nephew. With its headlights off, the car headed back toward Money.

Following the abduction sometime around 2 a.m., Moses and Elizabeth contemplated what next to do. Eventually Elizabeth ran to the nearby William Chamblee residence to try and make a phone call; while Mrs. Chamblee wanted to help, her husband refused Elizabeth’s pleas. The couple was white.

Eventually Moses drove an insistent Elizabeth 30 miles to her brother Crosby Smith’s home in Sumner; she would never again return to Darfield Road. Back home, Simeon and Wheeler couldn’t go back to sleep; instead they put on their shoes, ready to run into the cotton fields should the kidnappers return for them.