January 24th, 1956
Emmett Till's Killers Confess in Look Magazine Article
On January 24, 1956, Look magazine published "The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi," which detailed the August 1955 kidnapping and murder of Emmett Till, a black fourteen-year-old from Chicago who was savagely beaten, shot, and killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman, outside a local country store in the Mississippi Delta.
J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant graphically detailed for the article their abduction of Emmett Till from his uncle's home, admitting that they pistol-whipped him, forced him to disrobe, tied a heavy cotton-gin fan around his neck with barbed wire, shot him, and dumped his body in the Tallahatchie River. Look magazine reportedly paid Milam and Bryant $4000 for their confessions, given months after they had been acquitted by an all-white jury in Sumner, Mississippi.
Look magazine published a follow-up article one year later entitled "What's Happened to the Emmett Till Killers?" and reported that many black residents had stopped patronizing stores owned by the Milam and Bryant families, causing the businesses to close.
Milam and Bryant later died of cancer. In 2004, the United States Department of Justice reopened the case amid reports that other people, some still alive, had participated in Emmett Till's murder. In 2005, the FBI exhumed Till's body and performed an autopsy. In 2007, a grand jury decided not to seek indictments against any additional individuals.
January 24th, 1804
Virginia Bans Slave Meetings
On January 24, 1804, the Virginia General Assembly banned the congregation of slaves, prohibiting “all meetings of slaves at any meeting house or any other place in the night.” Violation of the law resulted in corporal punishment of no more than twenty whip lashes. The interpretation and application of the law greatly varied by local counties.
The enactment of the law followed Gabriel’s Rebellion, a major slave revolt in Richmond, Virginia, planned by a slave named Gabriel Prosser during the summer of 1800. The rebellion was quickly repressed when information about his plan was exposed. The Act attempted to limit the congregation of slaves to prevent further rebellions in the state.
Following another failed slave rebellion led by Nat Turner of Southampton County, Virginia in 1831, the state legislature enacted a series of laws to further curtail the right to assembly for slaves and free blacks. That same year, a new law specified the different venues of meeting areas, prohibiting “all meetings of free Negroes or mulattoes at any school house, church, meeting house or other place for teaching them reading or writing.” It additionally enforced the fining and imprisonment of any white person instructing blacks, free or enslaved, to read and write.