Tallahatchie County, MS
Many local people believe this is the site where Emmett Tlil’s body came out of the Tallahatchie River. While there is some debate on the exact location along the Tallahatchie River where his body was retrieved, Graball Landing has become a nationally significant site in the commemoration of Emmett Till following repeated vandalism of the commemorative signs placed there by the Emmett Till Memorial Commission. (1) (2)
Graball Landing is located across from where the Black Bayou meets the Tallahatchie River. In 1840, the land around Graball Landing was cleared by 35 enslaved people for farming on the Cullen McMullen Place Plantation. It became a steamboat landing until a tornado in 1894 destroyed much of the area. In the words of historian Dr. Dave Tell, “By the time 1955 arrived, all that was left of the landing was a clearing, a break in the otherwise impenetrable vegetation that lined the Tallahatchie River.” (1) Today, there are dirt tire tracks that lead down to a clearing that is sometimes used by locals for fishing.
The first commemorative sign placed at Graball Landing was dedicated in 2008 as a part of 10 commemorative signs placed by the Emmett Till Memorial Commission to form the Tallahatchie Civil Rights Driving Tour. Within six months, the sign was removed and thrown in the river. (2) The sign was quickly replaced, but this second sign was filled with bullet holes. In 2016, this bullet-riddled sign drew national media after NYU student Kevin Wilson shared photos of the sign on Facebook. According to the Emmett Till Memory Project, “[W]ithin days, the vandalism was covered by every major media outlet in the country.” (2)
Left: The second commemorative sign at Graball Landing in 2015.
Right: The bulletproof sign that has stood at Graball Landing since October 2019.
A third sign was dedicated on June 21, 2018 and about a month later was riddled with bullet holes again. In July 2019, a photo of University of Mississippi students posed with semi-automatic rifles in front of the shot-up sign received national media attention after an article by ProPublica. The photo had been shared to Instagram in March 2019.
The current commemorative sign at Graball Landing was dedicated on October 19, 2019 and is now bulletproof and observed by security cameras. In November 2019, those security cameras captured white nationalists attempting to film a promotional video in front of the bulletproof sign, again garnering national and international attention.
Dave Tell, Remembering Emmett Till, University of Chicago Press, 2019, pp. 250-251.
Dave Tell , Davis Houck, Pablo Correa & the Emmett Till Memorial Commission, “Graball Landing,” The Emmett Till Memory Project, 2021, https://tillapp.emmett-till.org/items/show/6.