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Bryant Grocery and Meat Market

Bryant Grocery and Meat Market

Circa 1910

Money, Mississippi (Leflore County)

This simple, two-story brick store seems unassuming, standing beside the highway in a small Delta crossroads town.  But the events that swirled around the building in August 1955 invigorated the modern civil rights movement.

On a hot summer day, Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old black boy from Chicago visiting his family in the Delta, came into the Bryant Grocery and Meat Market to buy candy, and while there, he allegedly offended Carolyn Bryant, the wife of the white owner.  The content of Till’s remarks or whether he whistled flirtatiously at Carolyn is not clear to this day, but Bryant left the store, and Till and his friends fled, fearing a violent confrontation.  Two nights later, Till was kidnapped from the house where he was staying, and he disappeared; his mutilated body was found in the nearby Tallahatchie River several days later. This may have been just another murder of a black boy in the Mississippi Delta, except that Till’s mother in Chicago publicized the atrocity and insisted on opening Emmett’s coffin for the world to witness the cruelty of his murderers. Carolyn Bryant’s husband Roy and his brother J.W. were arrested almost immediately after the discovery of Emmett’s body, but the sudden attention from outside the state prompted a rally around the two men, and they were acquitted on the murder charge.  The Bryant brothers, both of whom are now dead, later boasted to the press that they had killed Till.  The Till incident helped to spark the civil rights movement and gave Rosa Parks the courage to begin the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama by refusing to give up her seat to a white man.

The Bryant Store today is in very bad repair—the roof and second floor have collapsed into the building and the remnants of the porch are hanging precariously on the front of the building.  For now, the exterior walls are still standing, and with restoration the site could memorialize this small event that spawned a national movement.

2017 Update – No Progress

The Bryant Store continues to deteriorate. The majority of the second-floor walls have collapsed jeopardizing the structural integrity. Several attempts have been made to purchase the property; however, the current owners are not willing to sell the building at a reasonable price. In 2011 a Mississippi Freedom Trail marker was installed next to Bryant’s Grocery. This marker along with other Emmett Till murder related markers has been vandalized. In the summer of 2017, the plaque at Bryant’s Grocery was taken down and replaced. 

Recently, a group of concerned citizens met and discussed different avenues for preserving the site.  Congress has recently approved a request by the National Park Service to fund a feasibility study for Civil Rights-related sites in Mississippi, including Bryant Grocery.

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