Ear Hustle 411 had the immense pleasure of interviewing Simeon Wright and was given a firsthand opportunity to hear how his Cousin Emmett Till’s life and death had a major impact on the civil rights movement.
Simeon gave us some personal encounters that took place with young Emmett in rural Money Mississippi in 1955 where he unknowingly made an innocent flirtatious gesture to a Caucasian woman by the name of Carolyn Bryant, which would later cost him his life in the most brutal and despicable way.Who is Simeon Wright you ask? Simeon Wright was the one eyewitness that knew exactly what took place with Emmett Till from the moment of the whistle to the moment he was kidnapped by the Bryant brothers. He was able to give an Eyewitness encounter of who took Emmett out his bed in the middle of the night which he was then tortured and subsequently murdered and Emmett was never to be seen or heard from again after that fateful night.
Simeon was with Emmett when he whistled at Mrs. Bryant a white woman at a local store while not knowing that doing so was extremely dangerous during that era. Being from Chicago, Emmett didn’t know the wicked ways of the south as it pertained to black people’s rights nor did he know the punishment he would soon endure after the encounter.
Simeon knew that what Emmett did was going to lead to disastrous consequences but was too afraid to say anything hoping after they left the store that would be the end of it. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.
While talking with Simeon, Ear Hustle 411 was able to put a personality to Emmett, Ear Hustle 411 asked what they wanted to be when they grew up and we were told that Emmett wanted to be a comedian because he loved to tell jokes and make people laugh, He loved playing sports although they never really had a real football, they created one of their own. He said at that time it was really only two ways out, either go to the military or go to college.
Simeon shared with Ear Hustle 411 the nick name a neighbor gave to Emmett when he was a baby, the neighbor brought over some clothes and when Emmett’s mom Mamie Till asked what is this, the neighbor said, “ I brought you some clothes for little Bobo which remained his nickname for the remainder of his life.
Ear Hustle 411 asked did you know that a whistle would end up getting Emmett killed, Simeon said, No, We never really knew about lynching’s, our parents did but we didn’t. We thought we would only get a whooping but never lynched.”
Ear Hustle 411 asked what he would have done differently, Simeon said, I would have told my dad. If I knew it would have gotten him killed, I would have told my father who would have taken him back up there and made him apologize. He went on to say Emmett begged him not to tell but the thought never crossed his mind.Simeon said when Emmett was killed; it changed the civil rights movement. He said, change would have happened but it would have been so many years later. The murder of Emmett Till made everybody mad, Blacks, whites and Jews… Everyone was disgusted. Up until that point, they never resisted the white man whatever he said, they complied. He said they complied only to stay alive.
Simeon compared racism in the era of 1955 to what’s happening in America today and he said the only difference was that in 1955 it was in your face and now it’s a little more finesse, they don’t like you but you can’t detect it as much. He said, “I can detect it because I’ve been through it, they can’t fool me, but they can fool you young people.”
He then stated the Ku Klux Klan was who they feared in the 50’s but know the police are in uniform and they are the Ku Klux Klan. He talked about the politicians that are voted in to help the people but they act like baby pigs.
Simeon said, “Young people better get their head on right and get a good education. They can run the world.” He said, Young people are not prepared and demand they prepare themselves.
Ear Hustle 411 asked does he ever blame himself for what happened to Emmett; he said,” No, You never blame the victims. These men had evil in their hearts and they are to blame. ” He then said the community was even afraid of these men and were afraid to testify because they were in real good with the sheriffs. He proclaimed, “ if you talked you died.”
Simeon was asked how he felt about his cousins casket being placed in the Smithsonian Museum and he replied, “ I was the one who donated it. He then said it will be on display in 2016.
Ear Hustle 411 asked how did the name Carolyn Bryant, Roy Bryant and JW make him feel. He said he felt sorry for Carolyn Bryant, he really feels sorry for her. He said Carolyn Bryant told the FBI she would talk to them but they had to give her immunity which they refused.
Ear Hustle 411 asked, when they entered the bedroom to kidnap Emmett, how did he feel? He said it was a terrifying experience he actually thought that something happened in Chicago and that’s why they were there. He said he knew when his mother started offering them money not to take Emmett; he knew they were in trouble. He said it was like going to bed and waking up to a whole new world.
Simeon said the brothers Roy Bryant and his step brother JW was found not guilty by an all-white jury but later confessed. Due to the double jeopardy law, they couldn’t be tried again. The whole community turned against them and they took a huge financial loss with their businesses and had to shut it down because no one would shop with them.
Simeon said when it comes to Civil Rights, Black folks are slipping, and are going backwards. The power we used to have is no longer there. They have come up with a system that is destroying us as a people.
Simeon ended the interview by saying that most of his audience are young Caucasian people; he said they can’t believe this situation really happened.
Although they were not charged, the state of Mississippi had to pay for the murder of Emmett Till.